Among all the well-known people who have not been backwards in coming forwards to challenge the received wisdom of the right-leaning press recently, only one has made an impact so great that he’s had pundits and editors seriously worried: step forward Gary Lineker, former footballer and now lead host of BBC Match Of The Day.
Lineker’s support for the Beeb, and his genuine concern at the plight of those caught up in wars in the Middle East, earned him some serious abuse from the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun. In addition, the Mail ran a plainly libellous - and easily disproved - hit job on him as a way of indicating that he had incurred the displeasure of the paper’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre.
Gary Lineker, let us not drive this one round the houses for too long, needs no lectures in standing up for decency, tolerance and inclusiveness against the bullying and general unpleasantness of the right-wing press establishment. But Aaron Bastani of Novara Media has decided he’s going to give him the lecture anyway.
Even before last month’s General Election, Bastani was on Lineker’s case, pontificating “Reminder that @GaryLineker can't moan about Tory govt if [he] isn't going to come out for Labour. We are going to change country, not just whinge”. Thus he missed the point completely: Lineker is not a party political campaigner, but someone well-known who speaks out on issues that concern him. The two do not necessarily go together.
This thought was clearly not allowed to enter, and when Lineker mused “Anyone else feel politically homeless? Everything seems far right or way left. Something sensibly centrist might appeal?” this was too much for the man from Novara Media. There followed a patronising diatribe introduced by a Tweet declaring “There's nothing 'way left' about decent pay, housing or services @GaryLineker”.
Two things here. One, he didn’t say that “decent pay, housing or services” were “way left”. And two, Bastani behaving like the arrogant and overbearing schoolteacher or boss who declares “I know what you’re really like” will gain his cause no disciples - but may provoke more than a little alienation. Bastani seems unable to comprehend that many who voted Labour last month did not do so out of ideological purity.
It was no surprise when an exasperated Lineker concluded “Jeez, so many people trying to guess what I think. Why are you so concerned? Most odd”, while my friend Dan Waddell had to point out the flaw in Bastani’s stance for him: “Lineker has done more to promote leftist views and common decency than Bastani ever has, among people who might never vote Labour”. Preaching only to the converted has its limitations.
Getting Labour into power will only come from appealing to sufficient voters to put it there. Talking down to the most high profile examples of those potential voters is unlikely to win them over. I’ll just leave that one there.