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March 25, 2010

Lord Marland

By Spear's

When people ask me how Tickets for Troops is going, I reply it’s going so well it’s like surfing being transported on the crest of a wave, that is, hoping we will carry on and serenely land on the beach, rather than being dumped in a pile, caught out by some unsuspecting roller.

WHEN PEOPLE ASK me how Tickets for Troops is going, I reply it’s going so well it’s like surfing — being transported on the crest of a wave, that is, hoping we will carry on and serenely land on the beach, rather than being dumped in a pile, caught out by some unsuspecting roller.

Since we started Tickets for Troops four months ago, we have given 55,000 free tickets to our troops for sporting, theatrical, musical and entertainment events throughout the country. The tireless giving by our Advisory Board, Patrons and the generosity of our ticket providers is so remarkably heart-warming and shows the true British spirit for our Forces for what they and their families are going through.

Whether it’s The X Factor, Premier League football and rugby, the darts final, Alton Towers, the Cheltenham Gold Cup or a dedicated night of opera and ballet at the Royal Opera House, our troops are there having a great time. The emails of appreciation make it a really humbling experience for us all.
WHEN I WAS asked to get involved in Boris’s campaign for London mayor, the first thing I did was call my friend, campaign guru Lynton Crosby, and ask him to run it. Lynton is a rare man in politics and goes from A to B without deviation and, like most Aussies, he says it as it is.

Boris and Lynton came for a reunion drink in the House of Lords recently. One of the reasons for the success of the campaign is that we all get on well. Lynton had a great vision of what we needed to do and we have an inspiring candidate.

Boris currently is the most popular politician in the country (not difficult, you may say). Everywhere you go with him, people greet him with ‘Hi Boris’ and all want to come and talk to him. Peggy, the great lady who supervises Peers’ Bar, tells me I made her day introducing her to her hero Boris. My street cred is riding high!
ALL MY FRIENDS are now pollsters. At every dinner party I go to (or even at the vet), people bombard me with their interpretations of the polls and their prediction of the outcome of the election. Broadly, whether they are Conservative or Labour voters, they don’t want Gordon Brown as the next Prime Minster but they don’t feel David Cameron is yet lighting the blue-touch paper. The opening line is inevitably, ‘Tell Mr Cameron he must…’, as if he would listen to me!

Two years ago I had a bet that Gordon Brown would lead Labour into the next election and the Conservatives would win by a 20–40 seat overall majority. I am sticking to that.
END OF TERM in the House of Lords is no different from school, it seems: your desk must be tidied, all bills in the school shop must be paid and on the Wednesday we executed our end-of-term prank by hijacking the Tabling Office to ensure that for the last three days of question time all the questions were asked by Tories.

The Lords, which is a magnificent institution that works very effectively, has unearthed a few bad apples of late who, much to my surprise, have not been slung out on their ear or resigned in shame. As a result of these very few the rest of us suffer, I suppose.
ENGLAND ARE PLAYING some utterly dire rugby at the moment and in normal circumstances I would be boiling with rage. The Rugby Football Union is one of the few organisations that has not supported Tickets for Troops but when manager Martin Johnson heard this he approached the team and asked if they could give up some of their personal allocation; the result was 22 tickets for each game. It’s hard to feel angry with a team that makes this gesture.

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If I were stranded on a desert island, apart from my family the one thing I would miss most is sport. The pressure group Sports Nexus, which I chair, will in the next couple of months produce its review on British sport. This has taken a year to research, looking at our British sporting institutions’ performance — or lack of — and the progress made at grassroots level.

The sad reality is that despite an unprecedented amount of money going into sport in the UK in the past ten years, apart from the Ashes, England have won only one world championship in the big three sports (cricket, rugby and football), and the number of people participating in sport has decreased year on year. Am I the only person who wonders what sporting bodies do with all the money? There are times when they seem to forget that they are trustees of a national institution and also custodians of the passions and aspirations of so many people.
ROLL ON EASTER. The ski slopes beckon for what I always think is the best family holiday. Perhaps it’s the lure of the chequebook that still drives my two sons Marcus (23) and Hugo (21) to come with us. For my daughter Allegra (16) it will involve revision of GCSEs and for Domenica (13) Common Entrance after a full day on the slopes. Penny, my long-suffering wife of 27 years, will have a well-earned break from her life as a probation officer — now that’s a job to conjure with.

Lord Marland’s fee for this diary has been donated to Tickets for Troops

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