Is Brown relying on Wales losing?
I’m not going to lie to you – this might be one of my more tangential threads, and it’s not as though directness of purpose has characterised my Saturday morning slots for some time now. Let me take you on a mental journey, into the musing mind of a pair of Catholic Welshmen, pondering rugby, religion and politics over a pint of bitter.
One couldn’t help but notice that our Prime Minister this week went to visit His Holiness the Pope in Rome. As contributory evidence that glamourous, much-loved globe-trotting leaders must be followed by dour, academics with a penchant for PR disasters, the two were photographed shaking hands. Guido ran his usual Friday afternoon caption competition, and unkindly implied that Brown’s bad luck (according to the ‘Jonah’ meme) might cause concern in some quarters of the Curia. His Holiness seemed pleased to welcome the PM, however, even allowing him to pen a front-page article for the Vatican newspaper. Then the news (or rather the rumours) broke that Brown would invite the Pope to the UK. There has been only one Papal visit to Britain (in 1982) since the Reformation. It would be a remarkable event, and as with all such visits (the G20 this coming April, and President Obama’s potential appearance) would likely be interpreted as a tacit endorsement for the incumbent PM.
So are there electoral ramifications if this rumour is true? I’m not convinced, but some of my friends suspect so. I’ve written before about Labour’s problem with a perceived hostility towards Catholics, and securing (let alone organising) a Papal visit might be a good way of reaching out to that drifting demographic. After some drinks, this gradually became the master plan for Brown to avoid being toppled before the election – that with such a state visit planned, removing him would jeopardise the trip, and risk a snub to a key Labour demographic etc etc. Over time, the fortunes of these two embattled leaders seemed to us to be almost as one.
Then the realisation that this might be bad for the PM after all. There is a well-known phrase in Cardiff that “when Wales win a Grand Slam, the Pope dies”. The corollary is that “they were so good in 1978 that they won the Grand Slam and *two* Popes died”. Now such nonsense might be considered not worthy of the statistical denizens of PoliticalBetting.com, so I must refer one and all to a recent article published in the British Medical Journal (the real one) on the statistical correlation of Welsh rugby victories and Papal deaths. Without wishing to overstate the case, there appears to be a greater likelihood than normal of a Papal death if Wales finish their 6 Nations season unbeaten. I must strongly recommend this article, and the related articles cited beneath.
So with the magnificent team from the Land of My Fathers marching towards their third Grand Slam in
four five years, one might feel justified in being somewhat nervous about the likelihood of a Papal visit going ahead. If called, then cancelled, one could perhaps infer that the chances of Brown going before the election are greater. Therefore, if Wales continue to win, I might start looking at the market on when the PM steps down. After all, what else is there to really go on, other than gossip?