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In France the route politique has led to schism; in America the campaign trail leads to who knows where; in England we now have Starmerdom; at Wimbledon stardom is still to come

This time next week we will know our 2024 Wimbledon champions.


Unlike recent political events, with the typical exception of the French, Wimbledon finals have an air of unpredictability about them. Until the final point is won the match is not decided.


Britain’s general elections are democratic grand finals that are held every four to five years, but this year’s edition had none of the drama of Centre Court. As soon as the polls closed, the fates were sealed for the outgoing Tory government. The only question was the size of the rout.  A former Prime Minister, Truss, lost her seat and the seats of former Prime Ministers- Cameron and Johnson- were swept away from the Tories by the Labour victory.



Remarkably, the British Labour Party received a lower percentage of the vote last week than it received in the 2019 election.  This mirrors the experience of the Australian Labor Party- and, yes they are spelled differently- who obtained a lower primary vote in the 2022 election than the 2019 poll but, like their British cousins was able to form government despite this fall in support.


British voter turnout was low- a bare 60%. The split in the conservative vote between the established Tories, the newly created Reform Party and the moderate Liberal-Democrats combined with Britain’s first past the post system has seen the Starmer government win 33.8% of the vote and obtain 65% of the seats in the House of Commons. The stunning majority for Labour in the House of Commons disguises the drift in electoral support away from the major parties. The body politic of England is redesigning itself.


Starmer has announced that his government will bring “sunlight of hope”  to a nation desperate for change. Following the progressive left playbook of Ardern and Trudeau, he has announced a Cabinet of near gender equality and has appointed Rachel Reeves to be England’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Tours to the  nation’s four constituent regions are next on his agenda to improve “working relationships” between them.


Iran has apparently elected a ‘reformist’ President. As difficult as Starmer’s promised changes may prove to be, his ability to shape England is likely to be far greater than his Iranian counterpart who must accept the unyielding will of the country’s ruling Ayatollah: Democracy 10- Theocracy 0.


The greatest hope for Starmer in his first hundred days is that England win the Euro Soccer Championships. Victory would deliver England its first international soccer trophy since the 1966 World Cup was won at Wembley, when Kier was but a four year old boy. 


Charisma is not a word associated with the new English Prime Minister. His earnest, somewhat sombre, avuncular oratory, reminds me eerily, if not worryingly, of Kevin Rudd. Starmer’s victory speech was the most cautious celebration of a landslide electoral victory I have seen. If England can win the Euros nothing will rival the nation’s riotous celebrations.


If England can defeat Netherlands in their semi-final this week, they may face traditional rivals, France in the final.



The French could also be forgiven for being diverted. Their body politic has not so much been redesigned as fractured. After the first round of their parliamentary elections suggested the extreme Right National Rally Party would form a parliamentary majority, yesterday’s second round results have seen a resurgent vote on the Left. Newton was right: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. France is now likely to have a parliament with the ‘Weimar wobbles’ with neither of the Centrist Macron Party, the far left coalition of the New Popular Front, nor National Rally being able to command an absolute majority.


The direction of Australian politics is also uncertain. The two major parties continue to see their primary vote diminish. Such is the febrile nature of identity and issue politics that the defection of a first term Labor Senator from Western Australia has created another political fissure in Australia.




Senator Fatima Payman believed she had no place in the Labor Party after she crossed the floor to support a motion to recognise Palestine statehood and was exiled by her party’s caucus for crossing the floor.


The fact that both of Australia’s major parties are now concerned that she may support a faith based splinter party and further fracture their voter bases says much about the fading appeal of the old political order. Last week’s illegal draping of Parliament House in pro-Palestinian banners reflects a political culture far less settled and civilised than it has been for years. The odds are shortening on a return to minority government after next year's election.


In America, political developments go from the worrying to the bizarre. If there was ever a week where the virtues of Westminster government were brought into sharp focus by the frailties of America’s Presidential republic, this was it.


America’s major political parties and Supreme Court seem to believe that the Presidency is a divine person and office that are both above all accountability.


President Biden has stated that only if the “almighty” gives him a sign will he stand down from this year’s Presidential campaign.


The Supreme Court has ruled in another predictable 6-3 majority that a President’s powers of immunity are immense, thus further weakening the accountability of the office.  The separation of powers doctrine, which promotes judicial independence, is all but dead in America.  Sadly, the constitutional role of  America’s most senior court to be a guardian of the Constitution has been destroyed by the brazenly political appointments to the Supreme Court bench at the behest of the American Senate.


The turnover of British and Australian Prime Ministers in recent years has been exceptional; however, the Democrats in America seen incapable of contemplating a change of  their Presidential candidates. Everyone knows that Biden’s time is up.  The hubris of his willingness to stay is anything but democratic and, ultimately, tragic in the classical tradition. Biden’s party hardheads realise that Biden must from the White House be “untimely ripped.” As unprecedented as this would be, I suspect most American voters would relish the chance of a fresh option. Presently, their electorate is not being offered a pair of hands that are anywhere near either safe or sane. Anyone like to bet on America’s voting turnout rate in November?


Thank goodness Wimbledon continues to provide certainty. Too much rain. All white clothing. Although the all-white theme was taken to bizarre levels by Alcaraz’s first round opponent. Estonia’s Mark Lajal wore a hairstyle that made him resemble an albino topknot pigeon!



As predicted the Women’s seedings have been illusory. The defending champion, Vondrousova, lost in the first round to an unseeded player, last year’s finalist, Jabeur, lost in the third round, fifth seed Pegula lost to an unseeded player in the second round and Iga Swiatek once again showed that grass is not her preferred surface with the top seed losing in the third round.


The last 16 in the Women’s Singles comprise only three players ranked in the game’s Top 10; there is one qualifier, one Wildcard, four unseeded players and four players respectively ranked 17,19, 21 and 31. For mine, either Rybakina or Gauff will prevail. The qualifier is the exotically named Lulu Sun.



Born in New Zealand, to Croatian and Chinese parents Lulu was raised in Switzerland since she was five.  Remarkably, Lulu has reached a Wimbledon quarter final despite having a career high singles ranking of 123! Her latest victory came over England’s hometown hope, Emma Raducanu.


Even in the absence of Federer and Nadal and the departing Andy Murray, the new order of the Men’s game appears to have quickly settled. The final 16 comprise Seeds 1-5, 9, 10, 12-16 and 25. There are two unseeded players and one ‘lucky loser qualifier’. This last player is the remarkably tall Frenchman, Giovani Mpethsi Perricard, who stands at a mere 2.03 metres, an imperial 6’ 8”.




 

Hands up those who believe anyone outside the top four Men’s seeds can win?


There was a time that no one thought any party outside the traditional left and right blocs could command majority support. It appears that democracies around the world are realising that, contrary to French wisdom, the more things change , they do actually change.

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