There are times in life when you see or hear something and you think you must have heard it all.
When you are close to the horseracing industry, it happens about once a week. But the statement put out on Friday by BHA Chairman Paul Roy must surely now allow us all to pack up and go home. Much as is true, in football, of England’s performance in the first ten minutes after half time of their quarter final clash with Holland in Euro 96, so now, in terms of absolutely absurd press statements, do I know that as long as I live, I won’t see anything better.
What was published came in response to Conservative MP Philip Davies’s view that an earlier reply from Minister John Penrose to a parliamentary question about the Tote should worry people in horseracing. The parliamentary question related to whether some or any of the proceeds of the sale of the Tote would go to racing, and the reply from the Minister failed to say that they would. Philip Davies took the view that the Minister was given an open invitation to make a specific comment, and, for a reason known to him and his advisors (and only to be surmised on by everyone else), declined to take it; and Philip Davies held the opinion that the strong likelihood was that this would be because the government has at best not made up its mind and doesn’t want to commit itself, and at worst has come to a decision that the racing industry won’t be happy about.
So far, so sensible. Many analysts of the position that I have spoken to, agree with him. But whether you think he’s right or wrong isn’t really the point. Just because you don’t, doesn’t suggest that you should admonish the poor man for holding an opinion – especially by issuing a 749-word press statement which rants and raves, and tells Philip Davies what he ought to think and do, and why, and how, and in what order. If I had had a lecture of that sort delivered to me as a 12-year old boy by my headmaster, I’d have thought the man had delusions of his own self-importance; and for one grown man to deliver it to another in private would be extraordinary enough. But to put it out as a press release? It simply beggars belief, even for someone with previous.
I’m not sure if it would actually have been any better if Philip Davies had genuinely been wrong, and Paul Roy had really had a point to make: you can have your own view about which of Philip Davies or Paul Roy is more likely to be reading the political tea leaves correctly. But stamping your feet when someone puts a counter point, and believing that if you shout loudly enough about something you’ll get your way, are the tactics of a bully, not a leader. Paul Roy may well say on behalf of the BHA that ‘we are continuing our dialogue with the Government and wish to work closely with them as the current processes advance’. But when the slightest statement of advice or counter opinion sees the BHA chairman lose the plot, you wonder if he needs to re-check the definition of the word.