Why we lost the Ashes: it’s politics, stupid


I have collapsed in my ash-heap and done some thinking.

Job's comforters are no comfort. Australia did not lose the Ashes series because of the selectors, the umpires, the television replay system, the cricket balls, the coaches, the pitches, the players, the fast foods, the mexican wave, the alcohol, or even the journalists. Identical factors have been as much part of our wins as of our losses.

There must be a deeper reason.

It's politics, stupid. As the table below demonstrates, the fortunes of the two cricket teams involved follow the fortunes of their nations' conservative governments.

Since cricket became seriously professional in 1981, after the concordat between Kerry Packer and the Australian Cricket Board, Australia has had a 75 per cent success rate in Ashes contests under conservative Liberal governments, winning six series and losing two. Under Labor governments, however, Australia has only a 55 per cent success rate, winning five and losing four Ashes series.

England, in the same period, has won four and lost six Ashes campaigns under conservative governments (40 per cent success), while winning only one series and losing six under Labour governments (14 per cent success).

The trends are undeniable. Australia's exceptional wins in 1990–94 can be attributed to both the deregulating neoliberal tendencies of the Hawke-Keating Governments and the Accord on the one hand, and the imminent death of Thatcherism on the other. Likewise, Australia's loss in 2005 reflects the beginning of the end of the Howard years and the terminal condition of Britain's New Labour.

The only real aberration (England's loss in 1982–83 at the height of Thatcherism) was due to the fact that England was suffering from its own post-Packer professional crisis, with its best players being excluded while on a rebel tour in South Africa. 

Table aligning Australian and English political regimes with Ashes results

The Julius Sumner Miller questions then arises: why is this so? How can we regain the Ashes? I have my theory, but I shall rest for a moment — it's summer after all — and leave these questions for Eureka Street readers to consider. There are no prizes for guessing. 


John HonnerJohn Honner is on holidays.

Topic tags: John Honner, Ashes, England, Australia, Thatcherism, John Howard



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Existing comments

Hello, I was thinking of forwarding this article to my expatriate South African Professor, but at this point he hardly needs any encouragement...

Bligh Grant | 10 January 2011  

mmm... methinks this is the stuff for a PhD thesis - establishing a causal relationship between national politics and the outcome of the Ashes cricket series. Perhaps a parallel investigation could be made comparing the results with prediction through steaming goat entrail analysis. Happy holidays, John HONNER.

Bob GROVES | 10 January 2011  

This is thus far the most convincing explanation I have heard, and I hope Cricket Australia takes note. It seems to me, however, that you have overlooked one factor which I am sure also had a profound effect on the result - the ICC's rejection of John Howard's bid to be its Deputy Head.

osmund perera | 10 January 2011  

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