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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Has politics become a sport?

Frank McKenna thinks that politics has become a sport? Kurt Zouma was condemned by most people for brutalising his cat – but his club and its fans got behind him. Boris Johnson is being battered in the polls for his recent behaviour by voters – but Tory party activists still back him? So, has ‘tribalism’ replaced common-sense when it comes to political discussion and debate?

The decision of West Ham to select Kurt Zouma to play in their game on Wednesday evening against Watford caused shock and disgust in equal measure from most football fans and wider society.

Zouma is the guy caught on camera brutalising his pet cat – in front of kids.

I say ‘most’ football fans because, as is the nature of the tribalism within football, Hammers fans quickly forgave their star Centre Half, and by the end of the game, which they won 1-0, they were cheering him from the rafters.

We have seen similar incidents in the past, where a player has been supported by his club and their fans, having done something, that for most of us would be career-ending.

It is unfortunate that the emotional attachment fans have to their club, ingrained, blind, loyalty, means that common sense can often go out of the window when it comes to your team. And whatever anyone may tell you, as footy supporters, we have all done it at one level or another. Indeed, given the performances of Everton, Newcastle, and Sunderland over many seasons, how can those teams still command attendances of 40.000 plus?

Football is not the only sport where tribalism clouds judgement. The recent row over Novak Djokovic and his exclusion from the Australian Open tennis tournament seemed, in the end, to not be about the issues surrounding his disbarment from the competition, but more about which player you preferred – Djokovic or another.

There will be similar examples in most other sports I’m sure, and though unfortunate, our over- zealous fandom in the sporting arena is hardly going to impact on world events.

The problem is, this type of tribal behaviour has now infected our politics. No matter how badly Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour was – he achieved the worst result for his party in modern history back in 2019 – he has created a following of disciples who, when it comes to the Islington MP, see no evil, hear no evil.

Similarly, we now have a prime minister in situ who is hanging onto his job because Tory Party activists, by and large, are still Boris Johnson cheerleaders. Conservative MPs are genuinely appalled by some of the behaviours of the man residing in 10 Downing Street, but the troops back in their constituencies have gone all ‘Zouma’ for Boris, and are demanding that they continue to support their boss.

What this political tribalism dangerously results in is wrongheaded positions being taken, discussion and debate reduced to bah humbug, and too many folk taking a black or white position, when, actually, most things are complex and grey.

Unless and until we can somehow rid ourselves of this relatively recent culture within our politics, then I fear that populists will continue to prosper, and those of sounder judgement will feel the need to keep their heads down, in fear of having it ‘chopped off’ by their party activists back at the ranch.

Downtown in Business