Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Every cloud has one

In case you don't know (which wouldn't shock me), the gentleman on the left is Gerry Sutcliffe MP, Her Majesty's Minister for Sport.

Gerry's not been the most high profile holder of this position since Labour came to office. Indeed, previous incumbents have included Dick Caborn, Kate Hoey and the late Tony Banks who were all well known and well liked during their time in the job.

Mr Sutcliffe has also had the added difficulty of being just the third most important Minister in his own Department with regard to sport; not only does he have to play second fiddle to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham who's many years his junior, but also to Tessa Jowell who carries the somewhat grandiose title of Olympics Minister.

As a result, poor Gerry has had to rely on some of the other areas of his bits and pieces job description - which includes responsibility for pubs and lap-dancing clubs - to get any sort of recognition. And this hasn't always gone according to plan for the Bradford South MP.

For example, you may remember his infamous post-Budget gaffe when he broke with convention to criticise Chancellor Alistair Darling's decision to raise tax on beer. After initially refusing to back track, he was forced to issue a statement which read: "My comments do not accurately reflect my views. I fully support the tax measures in the Budget, and the Chancellor’s decisions on tax." It doesn't get more cringe worthy than that.

And it now appears Mr Sutcliffe has mucked up again.

After being teased by Australian Sports Minister Kate Ellis who predicted British athletes would "choke" under pressure at the ongoing Olympic Games, our Gerry promised to wear an Australian kit at a future British sporting clash against the old enemy should Aussie come above us in the final medals table.

It may not have escaped your notice that Team GB is not doing as well as we would wish in Beijing. Indeed, I've personally lost count of the number of "brave eighth places" we've achieved in finals thus far. (Unfortunately, there tends only to be eight competitors in the finals).

Thanks to a wonderfully brave performance from Scottish canoeist David Florence earlier today, Britain's medal total has now gone up to four. Australia, meanwhile, has scooped nine.

One of the conditions of Gerry's bet was the kit he would don would be an actual replica of that being worn by the Australian team in the event he was attending.

For his sake and ours, I hope Ms Ellis doesn't take him to watch the gymnastics.

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