Sunday, 24 January 2010

Democracy at work?

Earlier this month I posted on Lord Moynehan’s proposed bill to give the police the power to raid homes in order to search for so-called "performance enhancing drugs". Allegedly to prevent cheating at the 2012 Olympics.

I took my own advice and wrote to Eric Pickles Chairman of the Conservative Party and Conservative MP to voice my concerns. Nothing like going to the top.

He replied fairly promptly and actually answered the basic thrust of my letter, so good for him in that. The relevant section of his reply was as follows:

“I understand your concerns about this issue. Whilst I believe these measures are necessary to safeguard against the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport, it is important that they are not used unfairly against members of the public who have been prescribed these drugs for genuine medical purposes.

Please rest assured that my colleagues and I will press the Government to ensure that these powers are used for their intended purpose.”

Do you know... I really don’t think he did understand half my concerns about the issue based on his response.

Sports are a game. There may be money tied up in them, a lot in some cases - and prestige, but they are in the end still a game.

What’s more they are essentially a private arrangement between individuals, or groups of individuals, who agree a set of rules they will abide by. It may even go so far as being a contract, but that is still essentially between the individuals involved.

If someone cheats on those rules then it is a matter for all the other participants and the organisers. The governing bodies of the sports. The rest of us may form opinions about what was done and the people who did it, but that is it.

Even if the state decides to organise a sporting event it is still essentially a private matter.

I, like the overwhelming majority or citizens, have entered into no agreements. I am not involved in it, except possibly to be inconvenienced by it when travelling and directly, or indirectly, involuntarily having to pay towards it.

Also possibly watching a fraction of it on TV, after having paid again to do that too, either by means of the UK TV tax, or directly to one of the other content providers.

I don’t care particularly strongly about the games, not nearly so much as I do about how much I pay in tax. They let them use advanced materials and equipment in some events.

If they gave athletes carte blanche to use performance enhancing drugs as much as they liked the performances might even be more entertaining. They would certainly be on a guaranteed level playing field then… except some would not have so much money to put into training and equipment or time. Maybe they should insist on equal funding as well.

The thing is the staggering majority of us are not a part of it or involved in it in any realistic sense any more than we would be involved in horticulture if we had a day out and visited a country fair that had a vegetable growing competition.

It is simply wrong for the state to pass any law relating to the rules of a private competition. Would the government seriously consider making a law to ban overacting on the football pitch? Giving the police the power to curtail a footballer’s thespian leanings?

You can hear the catch slogan now… “Two to five for taking a dive? – It’s the LAW”

So… no Mr Pickles. If you believe for a second the measures are necessary then you clearly feel the state has far more right to interfere with my liberty than I do.

The state has no business whatsoever attempting to safeguard against the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.

It is interesting to note the measures are proposed by an unelected Tory Lord who is completely unaccountable to the electorate. And that Mr Pickles, occupying a safe Tory seat as he does, is effectively only practically accountable to the Tory hierarchy.

The legislation in it’s very conception is anti democratic and authoritarian.

As for his assertion that “I will press the Government to ensure that these powers are used for their intended purpose”, at best I fear this simply demonstrates grossly misplaced optimism on his part.

We are all well aware that very little recent legislation that has been passed granting powers to the police of councils or virtually any public body has actually been used as they were allegedly intended. In practically all cases there has been creep. As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject and my letter to Mr Pickles.

So from his letter it seems he has a touchingly misplaced faith at variance with the observed facts that this legislation will, unlike most other recent legislation not be abused by those executing it. Plus a certain authoritarian belief that the state has a God given right to be intrude where it should not even be considering intruding.

Is it worth telling him do you think?