It’s scrum time for Ken, Boris… and for Brian Paddick

STEVEN GAUGE is a former Croydon council LibDem candidate who helped run Nick Clegg‘s election campaign in 2010. Now he is working on the 2012 London Assembly elections, in between getting in a ruck with what was once Surrey’s second-worst rugby team

We're in a ruck, we've got to get out of it... political hooker Steven Gauge

At the moment, my life is a combination of rugby and politics. Playing at the weekends for Warlingham 4th XV and working behind the scenes during the week on the Mayoral Election campaign for London Liberal Democrats. Occasionally, there are interesting parallels between the two worlds.

Boris and Ken seem to me a bit like two battered old props locking heads in the front row of a the political scrum. If the latest polls are anything to go by they are pretty evenly matched. They are spending the time biting lumps out of each other trying to get a slight advantage.

The skills required for success in politics and in the front row of a rugby scrum are both described as “The Dark Arts”. They are worlds that few people really understand and even fewer speak of. There are things that go on there that no one is really proud of and no one likes to admit.

Boris and Ken, being the wizened old political beasts that they are, know everything there is to know about the dark arts and are, I suspect, deploying them all, hidden away from public scrutiny.

From a spectator’s or a voter’s point of view, the battles in the front row are impenetrable. Often more interesting and entertaining is what goes on once the ball is given to the backs. Waiting out on the wings of the London election fixture is my candidate of choice, the fitter, healthier and less obviously scarred by political battles past, one Brian Paddick.

Former senior Met Police Borough Commander, Brian Paddick spends more time in the gym I suspect than Boris and Ken put together. He is in a lot better shape as a result. He also probably spends a bit more time than them with his colleagues in the Liberal Democrat team for London, carefully preparing detailed policies and initiatives for London that we can campaign on together over the coming months.

And like backs on the rugby pitch, Liberal Democrats don’t get the political ball passed to us very often. When we do get an occasional opportunity, it is in the full scrutiny of the media and the voting public. If we are quick-witted and nimble enough, we can occasionally make a bit of political headway, gain a few hard yards up the pitch.

More often than not, however, we get a hospital pass, with a bone-crunching tackle coming shortly afterwards. Here’s hoping that Boris, Ken and the media scrum around them give us a chance to run with the ball once or twice during this political grudge match.

Brian Paddick and his team have a few nifty moves ready for when they do.

  • Steven Gauge is Campaign Director for London Liberal Democrats and his book My Life as a Hooker, about taking up rugby in middle age, is released by Summersdale Publishing on February 6. He will be speaking and signing copies of his book at Waterstones in the Whitgift Centre, Croydon, on February 16 from 6pm.
  • Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon


About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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