The Week in Review: Back to normal?

Time to go home... London returns to normal after the Olympics
Time to go home... London returns to normal after the Olympics
Alex Stevenson By

An Australian hides behind Ecuador because Britain wants to give him to Sweden who might give him to America. It wasn't quite back to normal after the Olympics this week.

The way Britain has handled the Julian Assange nightmare, threatening the Ecuadorians with a violation of their embassy premises under an at-best dubious legal pretext, handed Quito an opportunity to take the moral high ground on Wednesday. Its decision to grant Assange asylum hasn't actually changed the status quo on the ground in west London, dramatic as it was. The Wikileaks founder remains just as stuck as ever. But the political heat generated by the story has increased by several notches. And by that criterion alone, the Foreign Office has had a bad week.

William Hague has been minding the shop in the absence of David Cameron, who - like Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband - has spent the last few days sunning himself in the Mediterranean. So while the government has faced accusations of presiding over an omnishambles all year, the prime minister could not be blamed for all the other fine messes his ministers got themselves into this week.

Top of the bill is Michael Gove, who gave woefully inaccurate figures about the number of playing fields schools have been selling off for a bit of extra cash. Among the other awkward little spats he's had to deal with are a Chinese whisper campaign between Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May over Chinese visas, independents kicking up a fuss over the unfair nature of the police and crime commissioner elections, and Philip Hammond giving up on the private sector overnight after the failure of G4S.

The Olympics may be over, but the Games are casting a long shadow. Gordon Brown got involved by linking London 2012 to the independence debate, showing his usual excellent judgement. That triggered a debate of its own about the political impact of the Games on the public-private debate.

All this followed the closing ceremony of the Games, an event greeted with dismay by all those Olympic addicts. The abiding memory taken away from the 'spectacular' - as it was repeatedly described (fair enough really) - was its occasionally unsubtle political message. I refer to the George Michael song Freedom, or FREEDOM as it was pixcelled across the stadium ad nauseam in huge white letters. FREEDOM - get it, China? FREEDOM - get it, world? Unsubtle, but effective.

A lot of politics, then, for a week where the three party leaders were out of the country. Although in some senses that contributed to the news - specifically unusually direct swipes at Cameron against two usually more circumspect figures. Speaker John Bercow's outspoken interview raised a few eyebrows in the middle of the week - but London mayor Boris Johnson's call on Cameron to stop "pussyfooting around" when it comes to the economy was what won the quote of the week. Crikey.

Just as we've been made to wait for the good weather this summer, so the Olympics has meant there's been a bit of a wait for the silly season to start, too. The medals may have all been doled out, but now the games can really begin.


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