Monday, 26 October 2009

Liverpool's win ... and the down side of football

I know I shouldn't have been, but I was absolutely amazed at the sheer exuberance of Reds fans' celebrations after Liverpool beat Man U (Sun 25 Oct 09).

I saw whooping and cheering and wild dancing and beer spilled everywhere - and that was just people watching on a TV screen in a pub. What must the home crowd at at Anfield have been like?

Professional football, eh? Why does it evoke such passions? The physical reality of the game is this...

A bunch of grown men are paid millions of quid each season to chase a ball around a field and try to kick it through a rectangle formed by three posts while another, usually very tall man, tries to stop the ball.

The sport allows men who would otherwise be undistinguished - being in the main poorly educated and (in quite a few cases) downright thick - to display great athleticism and highly developed balls skill with the head and feet and chest.

And yet those physical skills are, bizarrely, the least significant aspects, culturally, politically and psychologically, of the global phenomenon that is football.

Competitive football is, and always has been, about tribalism, about beating "the other lot".

That, of course, means you usually have to "hate" the other lot.

I'm quite sure that all the tribalism, the passion, the hatred (for example, the widespread and deeply felt hatred of Manchester United) that is in football, is bad for humankind.

And remember, the sensationalised TV coverage of top flight games powerfully feeds and hypes up all that hatred and misplaced passion.

Also, the fact that so much money is now involved in the pro game - with obscenely large wages paid to Merseyside heroes such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres - is a highly negative force.

It means that fans are ripped off for their season tickets, and for the catering facilities within the stadia, and for all the naff merchandising that is so relentlessly marketed.

I wonder, when Premier League players gather socially together in their mansions are they laughing down their designer sleeves at the poor sods who put so much hope, so much anxiety and so much hard-earned cash into the game.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The political show trial the BBC just couldn’t resist

Shame on the BBC for giving a platform to people who would deny the dignity and worth of a fellow human being - and trample over free speech.

Yes, the hectoring approach adopted by the Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Tory Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Liberal-Democrat MP Chris Huhne and American writer Bonnie Greer on last night’s Question Time was an affront to decency.

And the BBC top brass should not have allowed the show’s usual format to be hijacked and used as a nasty and counter-productive show trial of BNP chairman Nick Griffin.

I don’t much like Nick Griffin, frankly, and I don’t at all care for his politics, but if he is to be invited on Question Time (and I think it right that he was, as a democratically elected politician) then at least he should have been allowed to properly answer the questions put to him.

It was clear from the start that the BBC intended this show to give Nick Griffin a tough time. That’s fine by me. Everyone who sets themselves up as a politician or a public commentator deserves a tough time.

But the BBC should not have abandoned Question Time’s usual format (of taking questions on various current affairs) and turn it into a bear pit in which Griffin was set up to have his credibility destroyed by a relentless series of sneering comments from both the other panellists and the largely hostile metropolitan audience.

Yes, Nick Griffin has a most murky past. We should not be surprised by that. Almost everyone involved in the queasy politics of British nationalism is tainted by association let alone direct involvement.

But if you refuse to allow such views to be even discussed, or if you shout them down, then you are trampling on freedom far more effectively than any fascist can manage.

Paradoxically, of all the panellists in last night show, Griffin was the only one who showed a semblance of humility.

And when attacked with vitriol and – seemingly at times, hatred – by members of the studio audience, he reacted with humour and tolerance, even though such personal abuse usually attracts censure when directed at mainstream politicians.

An Asian man in the audience proclaimed passionately that he loved Britain, was born and educated here. It was a genuinely moving part of the programme. So, the man asked Griffin: “Where to you want me to go?”

The Asian man suggested that Griffin and his supporters should go to the South Pole, adding: “It’s a colourless landscape, it will suit you.”

The BNP leader didn’t let the insult rile him. He told the Asian guy calmly: “I’m very happy for you to stay here.”

Elsewhere in the programme Griffin was told he was disgusting, and even that he had “slimy arms”.

There was a lot of such childish name-calling, but Griffin didn’t let it get to him. He stayed calm under fire. He kept smiling. Given the scale of the hostility shown him, his calmness was remarkable.

That is not to say I agree with Griffin. He did appear shifty and evasive when asked about the Holocaust, about his association with the Klu Klux Klan, and was curiously old-fashioned about homosexuality.

But other things he said – counter-cultural things about the left-wing bias of the BBC, for instance – will have stuck chords with many viewers.

All the questions on the show (apart from the last one) were used as a hammer to batter Griffin – and that made me every bit as uncomfortable as hearing the man’s views on race, racial identity and religion, which I certainly don’t agree with.

The final question concerned the columnist Jan Moir’s critical comments about the death of the gay Boyzone singer, Stephen Gately. The other panellists came out with the usual “freedom of the press” line, but Griffin chose to add that if you must speak / write about the dead then you should “say nothing but good”. It would be hard for anyone to find fault with that.

I don’t agree with those who say Griffin came out of the broadcast badly. I do think Jack Straw came across poorly though, particularly with his lame attempts to defend the mess the Government has made of immigration and border control.

Frankly, Griffin came across as someone who refused to buckle when under ferocious attack by the nasty, proscriptive liberal establishment.

And that, unfortunately perhaps, will garner him and the BNP considerable sympathy as the bullied underdogs of British politics.

Friday, 9 October 2009

European monsters ...

What a shame the Irish voted for the Lisbon Treaty, thereby allowing “Dave” Cameron – the British Tory leader and probably next Prime Minister – to backslide on allowing Brits a vote on their destiny as an independent nation.

Now we wait for legal challenges to this rotten treaty in the Czech Republic.

And once that “obstacle” is overcome, the undemocratic and corporatist monster that is the EU will be one step to turning itself into a lumbering nation state.

We mustn’t be too critical of the Tories because, after all, it was the New Labour Government that betrayed our country (the UK) by breaking its manifesto promise to allow a referendum on the European Constitution; the forerunner of the Lisbon Treaty (and, in reality, a sinister, back-door version of it).

The British, I feel sure, if consulted in a referendum, would vote ‘no’ to the treaty, and thereby stick two fingers up at the whole despicable European project.

But many people are losing sight of the basics of the argument about Europe. Britain is a nation. And it is only within legitimate nations that freedom under the law can be ensured for the people. That is the crux of the present problem.

‘Freedom under the law’ is very important if we are to live good and civilised lives; if we are not to destroy each other as people by ruthlessly following our selfish desires.

Europe, manifestly, is not a nation. I don’t believe it ever will be or can be.

In recent years the growth in international law has weakened freedom under the law; so has the meddling activities of over-weaning inter-governmental organisations such as the EU.

It is time to roll back those restrictions and reclaim our freedom.

The people who want the EU to be a superstate are, mainly, politicians from individual nations within Europe who want a bigger stage, a grander platform, on which to pose and prattle. That is why the European political class have been so keen to form a “United States of Europe”, even though there is very little appetite for that among citizens.

And in preparing the ground for a new European state, the EU bureaucracy have refused to formally recognise and record the enormous role Christianity played in building our European nations, our great culture and art, our morality, and our justice systems.

So here we are today, poised uneasily before the attempted forced birth of a new secularist empire.

If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified (and it won’t be if the British are allowed a vote) then a President of the European Union will be chosen, in a typically undemocratic way, by EU heads of states and governments.

The front-runner for such a post currently is none other than that grinning ninny Tony Blair. He would love nothing better than to bestride the world as President of Europe.

That must not be allowed to happen.

We Brits have already had a bellyful of Tony Blair.

What we want … is to be a nation once again.