By Matthew Ashton
One of the good things about sporting events is that it's usually easy to tell who the winners and losers are. The winners are the ones on the podium with the medals, the losers aren't. In politics it's often a bit trickier to separate the two. With the Olympics now over it seems as good a time as any to try to decide who falls into which category.
After their much criticised coverage of the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations the BBC were obviously keen to make amends here. They pulled out all the stops. Gary Lineker cemented his position as TVs 'Mr Sport', while Clare Balding and the rest of the commentary team did an excellent job. Had it been a gaffe filled disaster it would have been further ammunition for their detractors. Its success will be another card in the BBC’s hand come the next round of licence fee negotiations.
The Royal Family
The Royal Family have been on a roll for the last few years with William and Kate's marriage and the aforementioned Jubilee. Her Majesty's appearance with Daniel Craig was one of the best received parts of the opening ceremony while the younger Royals seemed to attend as many events as possible. As a result it's helped bolster the impression that they're in touch with the people and their popularity rating is at an all-time high.
Despite all the predictions of it being a debacle, the games were a triumph. Both in terms of the production of the event itself and Team GB’s medal haul. A lot of the credit for this goes to Seb Coe and his team. If he didn't already have one he'd be a shoo in for a lordship. Throughout the long planning period he managed to keep his dignity and more importantly remained largely non-partisan. His new role with regards to the games legacy reflects this success. Of course Tony Blair and New Labour have to take a certain amount of credit for laying the groundwork, but Coe has been one of the most recognisable public faces of the games.
With the exception of the athletes winning medals I don't think anyone had a better Olympics than Boris Johnson. He seemed to be everywhere, and regardless of whether he was giving speeches, dancing badly, attacking American presidential candidates or getting stuck on zip-lines, he was met with cheers and adulation. The fact that so many commentators are now talking semi-seriously about him being leader of the Conservative party after Cameron shows Boris' Midas like touch. Behaviour that would have destroyed other politicians is viewed by a big chunk of the British public as charming and lovable. Who else could have been seen on friendly terms with Rupert Murdoch in the present political climate?
The three party leaders
Basking in reflected glory is always a tricky thing at the best of times. When politicians attempt it they either look like they're trying to take credit for someone else’s achievement, or jumping on a bandwagon. Cameron attended a lot of event but Milliband and Clegg almost disappeared off the radar for long stretches of time. The public were possibly distracted by the Olympics from the bad economic figures, Syria and the growing splits in the coalition, but with the party conference season coming up they'll soon be back in the headlines. Cameron and the Conservatives will get a poll bounce from the feel good factor, but with the prolonged lack of growth it's doubtful how long this will last. None of the three party leaders did particularly badly from the Olympics, but none of them were able to capitalise on it in the same way as Boris did.
One of the worst things a politician can do is misjudge the mood of the nation. The day after the opening ceremony the general consensus amongst the public and the media was that Danny Boyle's production had been a success to rival Beijing; managing to mix stadium spectacle with a unique Britishness. Therefore it was unhelpful when Aiden Burley took to Twitter to suggest that it was in fact "multi-cultural crap". Bearing in mind that this was a man who'd been sacked as a ministerial aide for attending a Nazi themed stag party, he wasn't perhaps in the best position to be dishing out criticism. He was condemned by almost everyone including the prime minister. As a result Burley is probably going to remain forever on the backbenchers as it's a very brave or foolish party leader who'd trust him with a position of responsibility.
The other really bad thing a politician can do is to visit a foreign country and then criticise something close to their hearts and national pride. Unfortunately for Mitt Romney he did exactly this. As a result it got his whistle-stop tour of Europe off to a bad start with the media in both the USA and UK attacking him. On the plus side it helped solidify British support for the Games just as they were beginning. Nothing is guaranteed to make the public want to get behind something more than a foreigner having a go at it.
While the games security was by and large fine, thanks in large measure to the professionalism of the police and the armed forces, serious questions will now start to be asked again of G4S's management style. They've tried to head this off at the pass by donating 2.5 million to the military, but I suspect that in the future when attempting to win government contracts they'll now come under a lot more scrutiny. Heads are going to roll.
Dr Matthew Ashton is a politics lecturer at Nottingham Trent University.