The Old Etonian and the refugee

Steve Beauchampé still doesn’t like David Cameron, or much of the press.

Mo and DaveDavid Cameron has some brass neck. The Conservative Party leader criticises local councils for removing competitive sport from the Primary School curriculum, stating that the culture of giving everyone a prize must change. Lest the Prime Minister forget, it was the Tories who sold off hundreds of school playing fields in the 1990s (Labour slowed the process down but didn’t halt or reverse it), and it is the current Government who have cut the funding for the School Sport Partnerships and removed the requirement that 5-7 year olds undertake a minimum of two hours physical activity per week. Indeed, school sport has become a marginal activity largely because of the concentration (begun by Labour but carried on with gusto by the lamentable Education Secretary Michael Gove) that passing tests and exams are virtually the be-all and end-all of children’s education. Many playing fields have gone, but the private companies offering to help kids get good exam grades proliferate.

Cameron’s attempt to blame local authorities and his emphasis on ‘competitive sport’ is political ideology, an attack on that familiar, nebulous and largely indefinable Tory folk devil, ‘political correctness’. I’m not a parent but there are plenty of experts who state that what Primary School children need is regular exercise and the chance to play sport. The competitive element is not important and it may well be a hindrance, with children who aren’t particularly good (but who might just be slow starters) put off games for life once the system labels them failures. We’ve seen the consequences of this with the 11+ and selective education process. There’s a time and place for children to participate in competitive sport, but Primary School is not necessarily it.

Meanwhile, TV, radio and every single Sunday newspaper lavished praise on Mo Farah, Britain’s double Olympic Gold medal winner. 29 year-old Farah was born in Somalia and spent his early life in both it’s capital, Mogadishu (then arguably the most dangerous and war-torn city on the planet) and Djibouti. He emigrated to Britain at the age of eight to live with his British-born father, barely speaking a word of English. It’s a wonderful story of triumph against the odds, but many of those same media outlets now lavishing praise on Mo Farah, happily adding his two Gold medals to Great Britain’s impressive tally, have enthusiastically engaged in turning poor families such as Farah’s into folk devils, accusing them of being spongers, calling for draconian curbs on immigration and deriding our multi-cultural society. Even the BBC is all too ready to host ‘phone in shows which provide a platform for people to attack the most vulnerable and weakest of our society’s have-nots and have-nothings.

Mo Farrah’s success just shows what amazing things can happen if you give someone a chance. No doubt there are plenty of other less celebrated examples if we only cared to look.