JUST WILLIAM: Russian To Conclusions

This column starts with congratulations to Matt-Honeycombe Foster, who will join in Politico in September as policy editor and newsletter writer. Matt is currently acting editor of PoliticsHome, and I had the privilege of working alongside him regularly – and appearing on the PoliticsHome podcast, when he was interviewing me in the lobby room. He was nothing more than delight to work with and is one of the sharpest minds in the country on policy, and he’ll do great things at Politico, where he has the best wishes of all at Star Sports.

Now, onto the discourse.

Reads Of The Week

Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for a year at the time of writing, and readers here will know that just who elected the Tories in December has been intensely studied. Sky’s Beth Rigby went back to the Red Wall to ask those Tory voters how they think he’s getting on. It’s a fascinating read and also a brilliant watch, with no small amount of thanks to George Coote and Sam Williams.


A big feature of the Johnson Premiership is also set to be immigration. It hasn’t taken as many headlines as we’d thought it would – COVID-19 has seen to that – but it will never be far away from the agenda and Sunder Katwala’s look at the Government’s immigration strategy is well worth your time.


Sunder has also produced this superb read about attitudes on race, and if they’ve changed since Stephen Lawrence’s murder. It’s an uncomfortable read but it’s necessary, and it contains a whole host of really enlightening data too. Credit where it’s due to Matt Singh for his work.


TikTok. The old can’t live with it, and the young can’t live without it. But should we ban it in the UK or not? This, from Chris Stokel-Walker, is an interesting piece that makes a good reminder of just how much of your data big tech has already (spoiler: it’s all of it).


It’s to my shame that I haven’t put much racing relations material here, but I’m delighted to add this to the best reads list. If you enjoy your blasts from the past, then you’ll love this from Zoe Smith about the only dead jockey to win a horse race. Read on:


Advance warning: There will be talk about the Russia Report this week, and if you want a good breakdown of what’s being discussed below, then this from The House’s Georgina Bailey is as good as you’ll get.


Listens Of The Week

It’s not an uncommon sight to see the BBC – or its staff – praised here (and more on that later) so it’s no disrespect to Adam Fleming when I tell you how much I’ve loved seeing Rachel Burden, Naga Munchetty and Clive Myrie present Newscast this week. The BBCs news division is always under fire but Newscast must be making a goof claim for the most adaptable show at the corporation of news – and much of it non COVID, despite what the titles might tell you – with clarity and depth over the past two weeks.


And surprise surprise, yet more on the Russia Report – a PoliticsHome podcast which hopefully explains plenty of questions. Georgina Bailey & Alain Tolhurst take the honours here!


Watch Of The Week:

Are you a glasses wearer? Do you also – as you really should be now – wear masks? Get steamed glasses? Watch this from the BBC and thank me later.


Word Of The Week:

Mask. (noun)
‘a covering for all or part of the face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or frighten others.’

Tweet Of The Week:

Russian To Conclusions:

Before this set of hot takes, let me make a couple of things clear.

I believe Russia has meddled in a whole host of political events – like the west does and has done elsewhere – but I don’t believe they were the difference when it comes to Brexit. Much has been written about that decision which is of inherently more value than the stock answer of ‘Russia’ did it.

The publication of the long awaited Russia report ended up being all things to all people. For Brexiteers and still ardent supporters of the leave vote, it was an exoneration of any claims of interference in the 2016 referendum; For the still very vocal FBPE faction, which is now almost completely dominated by the most partisan Pro-Europeans, it was an infuriating experience which confirmed plenty of things pro-european liberals could have told you (and were) for years didn’t produce a smoking gun – because the Government didn’t look for one.

The publication of the Russia report was never going to satisfy everyone – these issues are far too polarised for that – but the most notable takeaway from the dossier for yours truly was the fact that three successive Governments saw a huge national security problem the intelligence community was well aware of, and did nothing – according to the Intelligence and Security Committee. A stern foreign policy response is already in the works – but the cat could already be out of the bag and into the river on this one.

When it comes to the thorny issue of Brexit, I don’t doubt there was plenty of malicious interference. However, the Brexit campaign was so brutal that any effect at the time didn’t feel noticeable. That’s probably the mark of a successful campaign, but the foundations for Brexit – whether one with it or not – were laid down over the past three decades, and there’s much more complicated than one state actor.

P.S: Once again, Russia didn’t do Brexit.

Gettin Out Of The City

The BBC is under attack yet again, this time from Tory MP’s, quelle surprise. It’s a familiar criticism – that the BBC doesn’t reflect the personal views of a given group, namely Tory constituents, and it was parroted by Martin Vickers in the Commons today, following on from John Whittingdale’s claim that the Corporation does not do enough for people who live in smaller towns and rural areas, says minister.

These two men of course come from a Government that asked the BBC to take pay for TV licence fees for over-75s, leading (along with the pandemic) to a heavy set of cuts that will impact, you guessed it, local radio and TV the most. In other words, the very services that people in smaller towns and rural areas would rely on more than most.

As ever, people seem not to know what they’ve got with the BBC, until it’s gone.

On The Course Again

A shorter end to the column this week, but the news that Glorious Goodwood’s final day will be a pilot event for bringing back some crowds is welcome news – not just for many sports fans, but especially racing, which has grabbed the imitative of the reopening with both hands.

It’s news that hopefully will have been greeted with delight too by on-course bookmakers, who have been suffering right through the shutdown. If a crowd of 5,000 – with 4,000 of them being annual members – can head to the racecourse, then surely on course bookmakers can be allowed back too, and hopefully we’ll see the layers with their pitches up – at a social distance, of course.

Not Even Close

These columns see a lot of media chats – and I’d like to think that we have just as much praise as we do negativity. This however, on the Haskell Stakes, is a real pearler. Or a hat-trick of pearlers. Enjoy (or wince).

Questions Corner:


Answer: Ignoring the obvious flatter (thanks Ben!) I think the key challenge for young people in the next few years will be skills and contacts. To give yourself the best chance of success going forward, ask yourself what you need to improve on and what you’d like to be better at.

Education at the top level has been turned upside down but we’ve never had more free recourses to learn new skills – in any area – and being proactive in looking for those skills can open up new opportunities. If you’re currently at college or university, then use the contacts of your teachers and tutors for new opportunities, and always ask about career advice earlier too. Take it from someone who really wishes he had a year earlier.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts, anything at all – please get in touch via william@starsportsbet.co.uk !



Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.