In 2009 the Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw claimed that, after more than a decade in power, Labour had presided over a ‘silent sporting revolution’. Bradshaw, having recently been appointed to the government department responsible for sport, gave a speech in which he argued that there had been a revival of school sport (‘virtually dead under the Tories’); investment in community and elite sport had risen ‘several fold’; and the Labour government had secured the right for Britain to host the most prestigious event in the international sporting calendar, the Olympic Games, in 2012. ‘None of this has happened by accident’, Bradshaw maintained: ‘This has all reflected Labour’s fundamental belief that everybody has a gift or a talent and should be helped to realise it.’1 There can be no doubt that Tony Blair, like his predecessor John Major (and like Harold Wilson before that, in the 1960s), believed there was political capital to be gained through a progressive sports policy. With the British economy in reasonable shape for the bulk of Blair’s ten-year premiership, and with the luxury of huge parliamentary majorities in 1997 and 2001, the prospects for sport under New Labour were more promising than at any time in the previous generation, especially as Labour MPs were keen to show they had more natural affinity with sporting concerns than their Conservative counterparts in the Thatcher-Major era.
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