Everyone can judge who they listen to “on the subject of ethics and morality”, says Libby Purves in The Times, but I’m afraid I “really, finally, utterly draw the line at being lectured by Gary Neville”. During ITV’s coverage of the World Cup final, the retired footballer went on a bizarre rant about how Rishi Sunak’s government is “demonising” rail and ambulance workers and “terrifying” nurses. Neville, who pocketed a reputed six-figure pay packet to analyse games for Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports, used this exaggeration to “ward off criticism” of the host nation. “We have to pick up on workers’ rights,” the 47-year-old declared, “wherever it goes.”
Can he be serious? Is he suggesting that denying nurses an over-inflation pay increase is basically the same as shoving south Asian workers into miserable desert accommodation and “working them like dogs”? That there is no “moral distinction” between negotiating with the rail unions and the “Qataris’ cavalier ways with late pay, confiscated passports and acceptance of migrant deaths by the hundred”? It’s enraging. Equally so is watching the world of football try to “clean up its dirty reputation” on the back of the on-pitch exploits of Messi, Mbappé and the rest. Fifa is up there with the Taliban as “one of the world’s most disreputable organisations: corrupt, self-satisfied and unwilling to change”. And after Sunday’s fantastic final, “it probably thinks we forgive it”.