Tuesday, 23 April 2013

University of Gloucestershire All Golds Away

Municipal Offices, CheltenhamWinston ChurchillShame about what else gets played here...Yes, that is the ceiling...Bring on the Salford!Bring on the Salford!
Prince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, Cheltenham"Practice for Wembley!"Prince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, Cheltenham
Prince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, Cheltenham
Prince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, CheltenhamPrince of Wales Stadium, Cheltenham

Sunday just gone (21/04/2013), Salford played the University of Gloucestershire All Golds at the Prince of Wales Stadium, Cheltenham in the 4th Round of the Challenge Cup. The 553 people in attendance saw Salford coast the game 82-6 in a rather bizarre and quaint setting for rugby league. It was an excellent day out and I think we'd all be quite happy to go back again at some point in the future.

Just a shame we're away at Warrington in the next round...

Monday, 15 April 2013

Margaret on the Guillotine - Free Speech and the UK

I reckon most people would be amazed that I've not written anything substantial on here for a while. The ongoing saga of FC United's fight to build a new ground and community facility at Moston and Salford's lurch from the abyss to being owned by an rich and ambitious businessman should've been enough to persuade me to put "pen to paper", but a combination of laziness and real life have kind of gotten in the way.

There's not much to say on those two points now. I'm not wishing to tempt fate yet on Moston and after the roller coaster of emotions at Salford it's now time to see where the club is in 12/18/24 months time as to whether or not the good Doctor can deliver on his promises. I'm not even going to get into cricket just yet - the only bit of this season I'm looking forward to is seven new grounds, including the last five County Grounds I need for all eighteen.

No, the thing that's finally got me is the death of one Margaret Thatcher. Now, I'm sure that, as I've not exactly hidden my political leanings, my initial reaction will probably be easily guessed by most of you. However, the debate about whether or not she was a great leader or a horrible person who destroyed working communities has been done to death and I'm not even going to get into that. Nor am I going to enter the "only celebrate when her policies and beliefs have died out" debate. I'm not even going to argue the rights and wrongs of celebrating someone's death. Nope, I'm more concerned with the reaction of the authorities to any sort of protests.

At first it was the usual, to be expected divide with the Daily Mail and Telegraph leading the outraged charge that some people dare speak ill of the dead. Others tried to provide a more balanced view and argument on events, but got drowned out in the middle of the divide. Things started to get daft, however when there was a sudden spike in the number of people buying the Wizard of Oz song, "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead".

Now, I laughed. And yes, I even ended up downloading a copy. A tongue in cheek, peaceful protest and expression of feeling at the damage her policies caused to a large part of the country. But no, the same people who rail against press regulation, the champions of free speech and the anti-"PC"  suddenly decided that this was free speech gone too far. You can't do this. Censor them, censor them! Won't somebody please think of the children, etcetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum and so on...

First the Beeb agreed with free speech, said censorship was a dangerous thing and stayed they would play the 51 second long song. Following further wailing from the opposition corner they relented and the song, reaching number 2, was relegated to a small clip on a separate news programme.

Add in the fact that even Big Ben will now be silenced during the funeral and dawn raids are planned on the homes of potential protestors and you'd be forgiven for forgetting that we're meant to live in a free and democratic country. That is, of course, true. As long as the government and police don't disagree strongly with you, that is.

The free speech argument is always a funny one. Right wing groups hide behind it whenever they're out inciting hatred for whatever reason. The same could be said of some left wing groups, too, when they get going. As much as I hate the BNP, EDL, UKIP and the poisonous bile they spout (to varying degrees, obviously), I'll gladly defend their right to have those views. They only wish to divide people using fear and capitalising on ignorance and a lack of education but it's up to the rest of us to counter that with facts and education, rather than calling for those groups to be banned.

Equally, the same goes for Islamic extremists. Or extremists in any religion to be fair, I personally think they're all as dangerous as each other, but that's a separate post altogether. But the main example would be Abu Hamza. His hatred filled, anti Western preaching has called for him to be either kicked out of the country, jailed (which he has been) or, in the extreme cases, executed. Now, aside from preaching and inciting hatred, what has he done wrong? Fuck all, to be blunt.

He's no worse than the EDL or any other extremist group who use the same methods. But because his views don't fit in with the "love England or leave her" type mentality they call for extreme action against him and the easily led fall for it. Without realising the hypocrisy involved. But I digress...

The point is that free speech in this country has now been relegated to a moot bargaining tool and all true meaning has vanished. People will hide behind it one day and then completely disregard it the next. It's a dangerous position to be in and a worrying erosion of basic freedoms in this country when it goes as far as censoring a song from a popular 1930s musical.

Regardless of your opinion on Thatcher you should be able to mourn, celebrate or be completely nonplussed by her death. To suppress any of those options, to the point of planning arrests on people who haven't done anything, goes completely against everything a democracy should stand for. After all, we don't want to be taking political pointers from North Korea, do we?

By the way, part way through writing this I learned of the bomb going off at the Boston Marathon. Humanity confuses and depresses me, sometimes.