The Week in Politics: Olympic-zilla

It's all too much for Seb Coe
It's all too much for Seb Coe
Alex Stevenson By

Like a nervous, sensitive, irritable bride, the UK has become unbearably tense in the lead-up to the Olympics. Welcome to Britain, everyone!

The Games is an opportunity, but it is also a threat. Minor hiccups have been turned into major crises. The slightest question-mark on Britain's ability to host a successful Olympics is turned into the gaffe of the century. The UK is a quivering, emotional wreck. Even David Cameron is reduced to saying he's got his "fingers crossed" that everything goes well.

This is, in the words of Boris Johnson, a "moment of psychological self-depression" when the country has a little emotional breakdown. It is something which Mitt Romney, the US Republican presidential candidate, knows a lot about. "As soon as the Games begins, we'll forget about the organisers," he said grandiosely during a meeting with Ed Miliband on Thursday.

Let's hope he's right, for as it turned out he'd done his bit to put Britain on edge. The 'Romneyshambles', as it has now become known, is the way UK hacks are now describing his visit. It started badly, with all sorts of criticism after he described the 'Anglo-Saxon' links between the two countries. When he voiced doubts about the Olympics things just went from bad to worse. I was at the Romney-Miliband meeting, and couldn't help noticing the forcefulness with which the Republican's handlers whisked him away at the end of the brief Q&A. They obviously know their man.

The Olympics is actually an even longer-running story than Britain's economic woes - even though it's now been four years since the financial crisis of 2008 triggered the unending misery which continues to this day. This week we learned that the double-dip recession was the worst since they started counting these things in 1955. The 1970s double-dip was bad, but it didn't last for three months. Seeing GDP contract by an appalling 0.7% left even desiccated analysts frothing at the mouth.

The huge sense of anticipation building up to tonight's opening ceremony has been a welcome distraction from some of Britain's other long-running scandals - like phone-hacking, for example, which saw investigations expand to probe fresh allegations about cracked passwords on celebrities' stolen mobile phones. This was not a good week for the seven journalists who discovered they are to be charged with criminal offences, either. Nor is it good news for David Cameron, whose former communications chief Andy Coulson is amongst them. It's not yet clear how badly the prime minister is going to be damaged by the news, but we've had a crack at working it out. The answer, in case you're guessing, is 'quite a lot'.

There has actually been some proper politics going on this week, too, even if MPs have now scarpered off for good for their summer holidays. Aside from dealing with the recession calamity, George Osborne has been engaged in some full-on horse-trading with the Lib Dems' energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey. Their deal over wind subsidies and fossil fuels has left both sides feeling like they're winners - and everyone else feeling very suspicious.

Normally at this stage I'd encourage you to look at what's coming up next week in parliament. There might be more exciting things coming up between then and now, but what the hell - who cares that it's in September?



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