Please, no sledging at Lord’s. Ricky Ponting and his team of Twenty20 triers will have more than a responsibility as cricketers if, as expected, they meet India at Lord’s on Friday 12 June. The scheduled World Cup fixture will come at a time of increasingly tense relations between the two cricket loving nations caused by Indian anger at a series of assaults on Indian nationals in Australia that are being portrayed as examples of Australian racism. How the Ponting team behaves during its on field clash with Mahendra Dhoni’s defending T20 champions has the potential to both calm or inflame the tensions.

Those tensions are certainly running hot in India at the moment.

Stories like that one are all over the Indian newspapers and television screens today and that they are being read and the issue talked about is clearly illustrated by these Times of India listings last night:

The references in these stories to what Indian students are describing as loutish, drunken behaviour by Australians should also be a warning to World Cup organisers to brush up on their responsible serving of alcohol principles. If there was ever a time for an alcohol free game of cricket at Lord’s, this one would be it.

Some doubt arises. The pundits in the financial institutions had talked themselves into believing that a second quarter of what economists quaintly call negative growth was inevitable and thus this week’s national accounts would produce the conditions of what some would call a technical recession. In the newspapers, the economics writers for weeks have been telling us that that technical definition does not matter — Australia was in recession and that was that. Messrs Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan were uttering the recession word as if trying to soften us up for the impending horror headline.

Then along this morning comes the Australian Bureau of Statistics with its balance of payments numbers and calmly states that a “decrease of $5,964m in the deficit on goods and services in seasonally adjusted volume terms is expected to add 2.2 percentage points to growth in the March quarter 2009 volume measure of GDP, assuming no significant revision to the GDP chain volume estimate for the December quarter 2008.”

That was so much a better performance than the forecasters had forecast that they went scurrying back to their abacuses to revise their growth expectations. Perhaps there would be no technical recession after all. Well we will all find out tomorrow when the National Accounts are released.

A fourth political force for Britain. The UK this week has elections for members of the European Parliament and for local governments and all the indications are that the governing Labour Party is in for a right royal drubbing. A poll for The Independent out this morning has the Labour vote down to just 22 per cent with the Tories on 30% and the Liberal Democrats on 18%. The big surprise is that that the poll shows support for minor parties and independents running neck and neck with the Tories — the Greens on eight per cent, Ukip on seven per cent, the BNP 3 per cent, the Scottish National Party two per cent, Plaid Cymru one per cent and other smaller parties or independents nine per cent.

The poll suggests, says The Independent, the voters’ message in Thursday’s local and European elections will be to say “a plague on all your houses” to the three main parties. According to the pollster ComRes, 80 per cent of people agree that “the Westminster parties” have let the country down, while only 18 per cent disagree.

“The poll raises hopes for the Greens and Ukip of a strong showing in Thursday’s elections to the European Parliament. It points to a Labour rout that could lead to demands from Labour MPs that Gordon Brown stand down before the general election.”

Ukip is running its campaign on a strong anti European Union message complete with the symbolism of Winston Churchill.

That what’s good for General Motors quote is wrong. I was reminded when I went searching for that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country” quote this morning that there is nothing new about political spinning. For, as I discovered, the words so often quoted were never said, but were a clever adaptation of something that was.

Peter Fray

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