Friday, June 17, 2005

House Points: Shivering on the wing

Today's column from Liberal Democrat News. Incidentally, Kurmanbek Bakiyev sounds a nasty piece of work when you learn more about him.

Fit for office

House Points has spent years complaining about culture, media and sport questions. All those MPs getting up to demand more school sport when the real reason children are less fit is that they don’t play out any more. Blame a noxious combination of panic about strangers and the dominance of the car. With ASBOs, curfews and now Kelly hours, it’s a wonder they can walk at all.

But we have a new hero. On Monday Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the acting president of Kyrgyzstan, single-handedly stopped MPs mentioning school sport. How did he manage it?

Easy. Bakiyev recently announced a policy of “mass cultivation of sports and healthy living”. Just what a British politician might come out with.

But then he said: “From now on all the regional leaders and MPs are going to have to do running, jumping and weight lifting tests before they take office. We will only appoint those who pass successfully.”

What?! That isn’t what our MPs have in mind at all.

With a few notable exceptions like Ming Campbell and Derek Wyatt, politicians believe sport is good for other people. And even Wyatt played his rugby in the days when being in the England back division rarely involved receiving a pass.

Most MPs spent their schooldays shivering on the wing, praying the ball did not come near them. As they did so, they promised themselves that one day they would be powerful and get back at all the people who mocked them for being no good at games.

So on Monday, scared of a Kyrgyzstani policy being enacted here, they steered clear of school sports. Only Madeleine Moon from Bridgend risked the wrath of Bakiyev. She must have been a whiz at netball.

She claimed a London Olympics would be an inspiration to young people. Then she suggested they would “give us a future generation of capable athletics and sports students who will be able to take us forward into the next century”.

Unless sport is even better for you than politicians think, that generation won’t be doing anything in the next century.

If Moon going to compete at the top level, she will need better clich├ęs than that. If Kurmanbek Bakiyev were in charge here, she would be for the high jump. Literally.

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