Grand Slam lifts working class

Now for the Con Dems

Euphoria

The whole of Wales was lifted by the achievement of the Grand Slam on Saturday as a team inspired by youth overcame all the odds to reach the pinnacle in Europe. For one day the threat of appalling cuts to the NHS and public services, benefits and pensions could be put to one side as people celebrated long into the night.

Yesterday the politicians received the team at the Senedd, hoping we can forget about the cuts they are implementing. They wanted a distraction, an opportunity to shine in the reflected glory of the rugby team, hoping the Grand Slam will deaden the pain of the cuts, pay freezes, pension cuts, the REMPLOY factory closures – a shaft of light in the gloom.

On Saturday the pubs in the Cardiff city centre were full from 11.00 am until they closed the following morning. Even pubs outside the city centre were full an hour before kick off. A quarter of a million people descended on Cardiff for the match, almost doubling the city’s population for half a day. Friends gathered in each other’s houses across the country to watch the match, one of the main community activities of 21st century Wales. The game got 80% viewing figures of Welsh TV.

Rugby and football are both the main sports of the working class in Wales, but it is international rugby that captures the imagination of the whole of the working class, old and young, men and women, because it raises the prospect of the underdogs, the workers, the small nation rising above the wealthy and powerful to reach the prize. “Whenever we stepped onto the field against England we knew we were playing the oppressors” said the late Ray Gravell, because in England rugby union had been dominated by the patricians, the public school ethos, not the plebs.

Its not jut overcoming all the odds to beat the big boys that inspires us; it’s the way the game is played. The idea of the fast little players running rings around over-nourished giants to achieve something wonderful is what captures the imagination. Wales has always needed aggressive forwards who have achieved folk lore status themselves, but they were the providers who allowed the artists behind to express themselves. Ironically this year’s Grand Slam was achieved as Shane Williams, the epitome of the little guy, retired to be replaced by gigantic backs who have battered the opposing players into submission.

But when the team take the trophy to the Senedd they will find no defiance against the ruling class from this Welsh government, implementing the cuts with scarcely a whimper. As the fat cats in the City of London ruefully admire our team they also lick their lips as their crisis is paid for by the unemployed, the pensioners, the disabled, by working class women and the young.

It is up to the working class to emulate the spirit of the Grand Slammers - to resist, to fightback, to drag the Welsh government behind us and defend the gains our foreparents have won.

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