I’m certain a lot of you reading this will not have ever played the game known as dodgeball; in fact, I would bet that if you have even heard of the game, it is only through the Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughan comedy motion picture of 2004, or through South Park. The game is thankfully easy to explain.
You split a group of kids in half and place one in one half of a gymnasium, facing the other half. There are copious balls added to the fun (usually basketballs or volleyballs), between ten and a dozen, depending on how many kids are playing. Then, the kids start throwing the balls at each other. If one of the balls hits you, you’re out; if you catch the ball, whoever threw it is out. This goes on until there is one kid left standing, who is the victor.
There are two basic tactics in dodgeball. One is the “strong kid” – you go on all out offence, chasing after and throwing balls as hard as possible, scaring the other kids off along the way. The other is the “weak kid” – you try and hide behind other groups of kids, using them as a shield, doing as little as possible until near the very end of the game when you have to then fight for it.
If Theresa May’s premiership were a game of dodgeball – and of any prime minister’s reign in my lifetime, hers is the one that most resembles one – she would currently be caught deep in weak kid mode. Trying to stay as much in the shadows as possible, hiding for fear of getting hit, hoping to hang on by sheer obsequiousness. What someone should tell her is that the weak kid tactic almost always breaks down at some point when too many kids are out and there’s nowhere left to hide. You have to go on the offensive at some point, in other words.
Thankfully no one compares May to Thatcher any longer. It was always an extremely lazy comparison; they are both women who led the Conservative Party, basically. But now it would seem ridiculous to even suggest it. For Thatcher knew what she wanted and what she stood for and went for it; you can disagree with what she did, but you cannot say she was confused or muddled or half-hearted. If Thatcher had played dodgeball, she would have figured out how to throw three balls at once somehow.
When you play the weak kid tactic, you are always at the mercy of events. Perhaps the last two people standing will be you and an even wimpier kid that you can probably defeat. More likely, it will be one of the big kids who have taken everyone out and now it’s your turn.
While you’re here: I’ve written a new book called “One Last Number”, about what happens when the biggest pop star in the world kills himself live on stage, taking some of his fans along with him. It explores what can and cannot be considered real news in this day and age, and how the splintering we see within social media means we no longer have shared, collective narratives when large scale tragedies occur. Anyway, it’s being published through Unbound, where you have to sell enough advance copies before going to print. If you’re at all interested in “One Last Number”, check it out here: