Alex Illingworth: Tory Renaissance, Our EU Exit & Russian Doping!

The Tory renaissance that we are witnessing at the moment is not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be. As a Conservative supporter, I am always pleased to see the party do well in the polls, but what can I say – this is truly dull.

The Tory Renaissance has been dull

We have found ourselves in a situation where there are no elections or political decisions to be made for quite some time, and with the opposition in disarray, the political scene is marked with complacency on the centre-right and total void everywhere else. All the big debates that were to be had have been had, and not nearly enough people are asking the important question: when is Article 50 going to be invoked?

Many on the left continue to claim that the lack of action from the government is a good thing, as they see it, the longer we wait, the less chance there is of Article 50 being invoked at all. I was a signatory to a Parliamentary petition recently (Invoke Article 50 immediately) and it received the following response:

The British people have voted to leave the EU and their will must be respected and delivered. The process for leaving the EU and determining our future relationship will be a complex one, so we need to take time to think through our objectives and approach. We want to ensure the best possible outcome for Britain and the future UK-EU relationship. As part of this, the government will of course work closely with the devolved administrations to ensure we get the best deal for the UK as a whole. We should not trigger Article 50 until we have a UK approach and objectives, so Article 50 should not be invoked before the end of this year.

Department for Exiting the European Union

The first sentence seems promising, always good to be reminded that democracy is actually something that still exists in Britain, but that’s about as exciting as it gets. I’ve said before that it would be good to wait until we trigger Article 50 to make sure we have the mechanisms in place to make Brexit a success, however, the more that I hear nothing about the post-EU plan, the more suspicious I get. I honestly don’t know how long the government needs to formulate this “UK approach and objectives”, not to mention the fact that the British people made it very clear which objectives they wanted to fulfil (ref. Lord Ashcroft’s polls). I know one thing for certain – it takes two years to exit the EU once Article 50 is triggered, and that seems like plenty of time to iron out any creases in the negotiations to me…

Frankly, I am starting to think more and more that we just need to get on with it.

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The issue of EU migrants in the UK

We have a bit of a situation with regards to this Brexit lark. That is the question of what is to happen to the EU migrants who are already here. It is a difficult topic to tackle, and something I have been thinking about since before the referendum result was even announced.

It is undeniable that some people in the UK want all EU migrants to be deported. In my opinion this is not only highly impractical but wrong on moral, social and economic grounds. Many EU migrants have lived in the UK for years, secured themselves jobs, and contributed to the economy. To tell them they now have to leave because of Brexit would be devastating for them, and cause yet another uncalled for human crisis. Brexit does however, afford us several opportunities with regard to migration: first, to allow these aforementioned workers to stay, i.e. the ones who arrived before the referendum result was announced, have secure jobs and are living in the country on a perfectly legal basis. Once this has been affirmed, we can get to the task of removing those immigrants who aren’t here legally. The law must be upheld no matter what in all cases. The law is the law.

Brexit should not mean repatriation

As for migrants who arrived after the referendum, it would be best not to allow them to stay. If they wish to apply for the right to work in the UK for after Brexit has taken place, then they should be allowed to do so, but if they do not meet the new requirements for the migration policy, then they must leave. This way we would ensure that there is no “Pre-Brexit rush” of EU migration, but at the same time allow those migrants who wish to try and get a job in the UK to attempt to do so if they meet the criteria.

As a short addendum in this regard, I read an article about a group of left-wing activists protesting about Byron Hamburgers in London which organised the deportation of workers who were working with them, who they discovered were illegal immigrants. It seems that yet another group of people feel the need to try and enforce mob rule to obtain what they see is the “moral” option over the legal one. I have this to say to them:

Having recently finished reading Plato’s “Euthyphro” (a philosophical dialogue about a man who takes his father to court for murdering a murderer), I am tempted to wax lyrical about the distinction between what is ethical and what is legal. These two things are in one sense distinct, and in another, synonymous.

Plato’s Euthyphro offers a useful insight

Indeed it is true, that which is legal or illegal is not necessarily the same as that which is “ethical”, “pious” or “right”. However, since morality is often subjective, and one man’s moral is another’s immoral, in certain cases, criminal law – which is founded on what is generally perceived to be right and wrong by the populace at large – will occasionally punish those who some people believe should not be punished. Is this any reason not to uphold the law in these cases however? I would say no, not least because that opens the door to making excuses for a large number of criminal activities, but also since, if we take the case of poor Euthyphro – it was legally correct of him to take his father to court for murder, but not necessarily ethical under Greek customs, considering that the man his father murdered was also a murderer, and it was frowned upon to betray your own family. Equally, it is legally right to ensure that those who work in this country do so legally – is it ethically right to just expel them and organise their arrests after employing them without prior warnings as to potential consequences? Possibly not. But the law must stand, for the law represents a moral force, whether it is always in line with different moral codes or not is pretty much irrelevant. What we can do however is learn from individual scenarios and attempt to ensure mistakes made in a present case are not made in the future. The law may even be changed in the future to accommodate for this. As Socrates would have said – we must “acquire more wisdom”.

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Should whole nations be banned for doping?

I’ve been watching the Olympics quite a lot – and credit where it’s due, team GB is really doing us proud, and I cannot congratulate the team enough on all their well-deserved medals so far.

But sport has a darker side, not amongst the athletes and trainers, but amongst those who manage the events themselves. I am referring to the bans on Russian athletes following the doping scandal that recently hit the news.

Now if doping has taken place, then that is of course a terrible violation of the rules and athletes involved should be disciplined and if necessary, banned from events. However the International Paralympic Committee has placed a blanket ban on all Russian Paralympic athletes, and this is something I feel is not at all in order.

The issue of Russian doping feels like a Neo-Cold War

Not only is it downright unfair to punish all athletes for the misbehaviour of a few (roughly 300 athletes were affected based on results for roughly 25 athlete’s tests), but to me, it seems to be a blatant political manoeuvre to punish Russia in this ongoing game of Neo-Cold War that seems to be being played by Western nations, specifically, the United States, which has great influence in all trans-national institutions, not just the Olympic and Paralympic Committees. It has become very clear to me that a “them vs. us” attitude is being propagated in the UK and the US. The idea that we are somehow the “good guys” and Russia and Vladimir Putin are the “bad guys” is a common one to find, even in the opinions of the ordinary person, and anyone who disagrees is often decried as a “Putin apologist”. Putin is no angel, in fact he is worse, he is not a democratic leader, he is almost certainly corrupt, and he will do anything he can do to get his way. The Russians, (though there are loud opposition voices) seem much more used to, or at least, disillusioned with this sort of politics to a level where they no longer care, whilst our people have very little idea of the dark underbelly of our political system.

I’m fine with Russia being criticised for its actions, every nation state should be, but for that same reason we should look to ourselves, and stop looking for every opportunity to shift the blame onto “the common enemy”. Above all, don’t use sport to play politics.

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