Friday, 2 January 2015

Andy Murray's vote counts too

Andy Murray started the new year in style with a 6-2, 6-0 crushing win over Rafael Nadal to reach the World Tennis Championship final. Already commentators look for the superlatives. Is this the 'new' Andy Murray, coming back strong after a difficult 2014? Can he win another Wimbledon? Will he tell us who to vote for in the general election?

One thing I do know is that he should not have been expected to apologise for making his views known about the referendum on Scottish independence. He has a right to express his views. Andy Murray expressed regret after tweeting his support for the "Yes" campaign. The Wimbledon champion received a torrent of abuse after tweeting his support for the Yes campaign on the morning of the referendum. He should not have felt it necessary to regret. There is nothing to regret. He now realises that his views matter, perhaps more than he realised. But why anyone could get angry about a Scot expressing his views about independence demonstrates how some people cannot distinguish between the sporting hero and the expression of his own views. We do not own Andy Murray.

His infamous tweet was an expression of the extraordinary enthusiasm generated by the referendum. Politics came to life. Politics finally mattered, and nothing is now the same. It was a 'no' vote by a reasonable margin, and yet it changed our politics for ever. We need now to find a way of injecting the same enthusiasm into the general election in May. If we can get the same kind of fierce debate, real debate — and argument about ideas, then no matter what the outcome it would be good for British politics.

It is expected that the Tory party will outspend Labour by 3 to 1. That is a wide margin. Should our elections be decided by who can spend the most? How will the Liberal Democrats Square up against their coalition partners in the general election? It will be a difficult election for them. But will Labour be able to offer a coherent and credible alternative, or will the arguments be about a slither of difference?

Politics matters. I cannot think of an election where so much could change and where the outcome is so uncertain. British politics may never be the same again as we truly move into an era of alignments rather than clear party dominance. Will that be a good thing? It will be good if it broadens the debate and brings into the mainstream ideas that challenge us. It will be a bad thing if it further narrows the middle ground over which the parties fight.

If it galvanises Andy Murray to be brave enough to give his opinion, and if it galvanises others in the same way, then perhaps 2015 will herald a new start for British politics. But, it is for Andy Murray at least a good start. Let's hope he really does have a better year than 2014 - in Tennis that is.

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