Monday, 27 December 2010

Why we should be happy Nick Griffin won

The problem with politics is that it suffers from a 'team sport' mentality. Followers of one party or ideology tend to cheer any misfortune of those that oppose them, regardless of the cost. This was definitely the case during the recent legal trial of the BNP which ended in a totally just way. The acquittal of the BNP (Nick Griffin) in the Courts of Justice this week was good for everyone who believes in democracy, regardless of what they think of the BNP.

There are minor and major points for this. The first minor point - I say 'minor' in the grand scheme of things - is that Griffin was obviously innocent. The BNP had been ordered to change their constitution (wrongly in my opinion) and had done so. Any ethnic race of person is now allowed to join the BNP. How the EHRC could claim that Griffin's following of court orders was "contempt of court" is beyond belief, and the EHRC case was never really made clear.

Second minor point: the case was clearly persecution.  Indeed, it's only since the BNP had two MEPs elected that these charges began to crop up. Cases against Griffin and the BNP have been thrown out of court over the last few years while MPs fiddling expenses, others abusing their position and those implicated in the Iraq war lies have walked away scot free.

And now we come to the major point, so please let me explain how crucial this is. Britain is arguably the oldest democracy in The World. It is also one of the most stable. No other major country has gone for so long without a coup, civil war or mutiny. Undoubtedly one of the reasons for this is the balance of our constitution. The three main elements - legislative (parliament) executive (Monarchy/Cabinet) and Judiciary (Courts) function so well because of their independence. As soon as one starts interfering with the other, you have problems, yet for each branch to become truly independent of each other often takes time. This is why less mature democracies such as Thailand, many African states and even some Eastern European states have endless political upheaval, often resulting in deaths, torture and persecution. Usually this stems from government interference with the legal system and other abuses of power.

This allegedly happened in Thailand, with Thaksin Shinwatra's political party being completely disbanded by the courts. Its reincarnation was then dissolved for the almighty offence of allowing its leader to appear on a TV cooking show while being employed as Prime Minister. It happened in Zinbabawae when Muagbe's opponents were repeatedly beaten, threatened and imprisoned. Of course it happened in Burma, too. Even in Italy, Belusconi's critics were often tailed and intimidated going round their daily duties.

The list of examples goes on and on. They all have one thing in common - they represent to some degree a corrupt, unhealthy and unsafe democracy which nobody in their right mind would choose over our own, despite its many imperfections.

What has this got to do with the BNP case? Everything. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is a government body bearing the common and tired disguise of a "quango" status. It is run, funded and selected by the government, without any public involvement whatsoever. So when the EHRC takes legal action to close down a party, it is essentially the government using your own money to eliminate its opposition.

It may be harsh to draw comparisons between British democracy and those countries just mentioned, but it's only thanks to the Courts of Justice that we can see the difference in the BNP case.

Let's be clear - I am not a BNP supporter. It doesn't make one iota of difference if you love or loathe the BNP. If Nick Griffin had been imprisoned in last fortnight's court hearing - there would be two victors. The first would be the government, because they would've eliminated a growing political threat in a sly, undemocratic and underhand way. The second victor would be the hate-filled, fanatical and violently vicious fringe bunch of so called "anti-fascists' who would have danced with great delight on the grave of the strongest, healthiest and - for all its faults - one of the best and most just constitutions in the world.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The case for boycotting the World Cup

Qatar's World Cup record (
This thesis statement is only going to be relevant to you, the reader, if you believe as I do that the World Cup bids for 2018 and 2022 were dishonest, corrupt and just plain bad.

Not all people believe that. I've spoken to some folk who are pleased to see Qatar hosting the greatest of tournaments in 2022. Fine, if you support the nation of well under two million people with no current facilities, a totally inappropriate climate, no democracy and that has never, ever qualified for the tournament by merit or otherwise then I'm happy for you. My feelings about the process have already been stated, and that is why I believe that England and other well-known football nations should boycott at least one World Cup.

The aim of the boycott would be to discredit FIFA, register our disgust at the blatant corruption and megalomania going on within the group and most importantly pressure them to reform. We should make clear that we are not disputing the decisions already made as that would make us look sore losers, rather we have to press for reform so that the same farce cannot repeat itself in future.

More specifically, we must call for voting to be public, not secret. We should push for a disclosure of interests including any payments or lobbying interests of FIFA committee members in a similar way to the system used by western parliaments. We could also push for a public written summary of the final vote by each committee member, or some similar token of public interest. A statement of values and aims by FIFA in selecting candidate nations is essential, too. There has been one too many nations with human rights abuse, corruption and total lack of democracy involved in World Cup hosting lately and the pathetic argument from FIFA that gifting the tournament to them helps makes things better does not stand up the the tiniest amount of scrutiny.

Why would a boycott work? Well consider that FIFA has been compared to a global government in several circles this year. After all, they have income and power well above many nations. But while governments must gain legitimacy by appeasing voters or beating them into submission (Burma, Zimbabwe, etc.), FIFA gains its power by the football prestige of its members. If the countries mistreated in the voting such as Spain, Portugal, Japan, England, Belgium and Holland and even Australia and the US withdrew from the World Cup, that would strike a humongous blow to the tournament's prestige, popularity and profits. In other words, FIFA would lose out on everything they care for.

It's going to be hard. As a success-starved nation where football is the closest we have to a modern religion, it's going to be painful to watch a tournament and not have our lads to cheer. We'll get over it though, just like in USA '90 when we had to pretend we cared about the Irish side. Of course, we'll lose out financially too. Other nations will suffer a similar stress but it will be "short term pain for long term gain".

Perhaps the great Gary Lineker said it best: "People keep telling me we have to play the game differently, that we are too straight for our own good. I don't think that is the case. We just do things the right way. But if that is what has cost us the World Cup, then forget it - maybe it's not worth having."

Let's make it worth having again.