Over the last eight days or so, England’s failed bid to win the 2010 World Cup has been picked at repeatedly by the sports press in an attempt to try to rationalise this apparent “disaster” in terms that transcend what we all saw with our own eyes – that they were beaten by a better organised, better disciplined team. The sports writers have largely been unable to top this explanation (though this hasn’t been for the want of trying) and have instead been looking at the training, the attitude of the players and problems with the coaching as being the root causes of England’s thrashing at the hands of Germany, but there is no firm consensus on the specifics of their failure yet. Once the front page writers and columnists get involved, though, the gloves are off and there is no theory, it would appear, that can be deemed too crackpot to get an airing.
One might expect the South Wales Argus to be a comparatively political neutral organisation – many (though not all) local newspapers are. As a Welsh publication, it would, of course, be entitled to laugh at England’s World Cup failure somewhat. That’s the nature of local rivalry. What one probably wouldn’t expect would be a spittle-inflected rant against multiculturalism written by a columnist who seems incapable of touching upon any subject without retreating into barely-coherent treatises on the subject of how we are all going to hell in a handcart to such an extent that he starts to sound like, well, a bit of a… fascist. Mike Buckingham is this particular columnist’s name, and the South Wales Argus already knows how ribald he is, even going to the trouble of describing him as a “controversial columnist” in the “About” section of their newspaper.
“Ah”, I hear you cry, “I claim Godwin’s Law”. Well, we would that this were so. Godwin’s Law, however, applies to hyperbolic references to Nazis or Hitler in an attempt to foreclose a debate that is nothing to do with fascism. However, when Buckingham wrote in December 2009 that, “I buy petrol at Texaco station when I possibly can since that company supported Franco in the Spanish civil war”, he didn’t make a particularly good job of demonstrating that his tongue was in its cheek, if he was intending to. Likewise, this entry from the Newport County forum The Exiles makes it clear that it’s not the only time that he has dropped, shall we say, politically ambivalent statements on the subject of far-right politics into his columns.
So far, so depressing, but in the current environment, perhaps the South Wales Argus feels as if it has been forced to go in search of someone outrageous to boost their circulation, even if said columnist does manage to make Richard Littlejohn sound like Polly Toynbee, only with roughly one-tenth of the wit that even Littlejohn possesses. When he crosses over and starts discussing football, however, he is into our territory and his statements are worthy of our comment. Perhaps inevitably, Buckingham has some very strong opinions about England’s elimination from the World Cup, and he believes that knows where the blame lies:
Had I not been minus four at the time I would have been for Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement before the last war. The reason Germany thrashed England in the World Cup is that it is a better-organised society and one united around the idea of itself as a Northern European country with values which are superior to anybody else’s.
He doesn’t particularly expand upon what those “values which are superior to anybody else’s” are, still less dwell upon the stupidity of making such a statement immediately after mentioning his approval of “Chamberlain” and “appeasement” in the same sentence. However, there is more to follow:
The Germans, in football as in all else, pick the best people for the job. In Britain we pick the least worst, unless they happen to belong to an approved-of minority in which case we settle for the truly useless.
It’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty what point he is trying to make, here. Is he claiming that the England football team is selected on the basis of positive discrimination? That, for example, Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe were selected to play up front over Peter Crouch on account of the colour of their skin? Because it certainly reads that way. He also adds that:
This is where we were before multiculturalism fatally undermined England and its sense of identity and self-belief, and will as surely do the same to Wales.
Ah, right, so it’s the fault of multiculturalism. One can only presume that Buckingham didn’t bother to do any research on this subject (and heaven forfend that a professional journalist should do any research before writing), he might have noted that in the current German World Cup finals squad (deep breath)… Dennis Aogo is of Nigerian descent, Serdar Tasci is of Turkish descent, Jérôme Boateng is half-Ghanaian, Sami Khedira is of Tunisian descent, Mesut Özil is of Turkish/Kurdish descent, Piotr Trochowski was born in Poland, Marko Marin was born a Bosnian Serb, Lukas Podolski was born in Poland, Miroslav Klose was born in Poland, Cacau was born in Brazil and Mario Gomez is half-Spanish. Still, that’s only eleven players from a twenty-three man squad.
Quite why the South Wales Argus chooses to print this spittle-flecked, ignorant, Political-Correctness-Gone-Mad rubbish is open to question. Perhaps they genuinely believe that they upsetting “the right people”, or that any fuss that they can cause is better none, but the truth of the matter is that they are merely dragging the name of their newspaper through the mud with such ill-informed ranting, even if it is thinly-disguised as “comment” from a “controversial columnist”. It may even be worth asking the question of why so little of Buckingham’s output is on the newspaper’s website (nothing since the end of January this year seems to have made it online). Perhaps someone at the newspaper doesn’t feel that it would be wise for a global audience to be able to see this sort of thing.
One of the best things about the end of this World Cup is that we football supporters will be spared this controversialist clap-trap for another couple of years, at least. Every time a major football tournament comes around, there are scores of people that have been conspicuously avoiding the subject of football that are suddenly available to shout about how much they hate our game, hate us, or draw absurd conclusions about either our game or us in order to fit their own political agendas. Fortunately, they have a tendency to shut up as soon as the tournament ends. The poor newspaper readers of South Wales, however, don’t appear to be anywhere near as lucky. They’re stuck with him until someone at that particular newspaper realises just how much of a laughing stock it could become on account of his comments.