Saturday, 28 November 2009

It's my birthday!

It's my birthday today, I'm 34! How did I get that old? Happy birthday to me!

I thought I'd have a look and find out some interesting facts about 28 November!

The 28 November is the 332nd day of the year.

I share my birthday with Alistair Darling the current Chancellor of the Exchequer and the shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.

On my birthday in 1975, the only interesting fact I could find was that East Timor declared independance from Portugal! I was hoping something a little more exciting might have happened!

1975 is the year of the rabbit in the Chinese zodiac calendar

On this day in history:

William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in 1582.

Friedrich Engels The co-author of the Communist Manifesto was born in 1820.

John Major became Prime Minister in 1990

The writer Enid Blyton died on this day in 1968.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

David Beckham has asthma.

It was revealed today that David Beckham has been suffering from asthma since childhood. The way it's been reported in some quarters you'd think his career as a footballer was some kind of triumph against all the odds! As someone who's also had asthma since childhood. I can say it's not something that's ever stopped me from taking up sports and leading a fairly active lifestyle.

Asthma has become increasingly more common in the last 25 years, so it's not really a surprise that more and more top sports stars have been revealed to have the condition.

What has slightly surprised me is the idea that asthma is some kind of barrier to sporting success. In the most extreme cases it's a very serious condition, but for most people it's perfectly manageable and doesn't have a huge impact on their lives.

My own asthma is quite mild, and I normally only use my inhaler at certain times during the year, or on occasions when I'm doing sport.

I suppose because its David Beckham, its reported as a major thing when really it isn't. I except that he's managed to play sport at a significantly higher level than myself.

I don't think my Birmingham under 15 and 16 Basketball championship medals quite compare with Beckhams countless league and cup triumphs with Man Utd and Real Madrid.

But having asthma certainly didn't hold me back in my own sporting efforts. I can proudly say I managed to become a black belt in Karate whilst growing up, and today I play badminton to a reasonably high standard.

Looking back to my childhood, having asthma almost made me take up more sports in order to remain fit and healthy. I was always one of those kids that did every sport going, so maybe in some ways asthma was a good thing. It made me take health and fitness more seriously then other people may have done. I certainly don't ever remember thinking or being told I couldn't do something because of it.

If Beckham is seen as a role model for youngsters with asthma then great, but kids just need to be told to carry on doing what they want to do, as there's no reason why asthma should stop them.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Do you believe in climate change?

Last week in The Times they reported on a poll they'd conducted which revealed that only 41% of people questioned, believed that climate change was the result of man made activities! You can read the article here.

I was surprised to hear this as we're always being told by politicians and environmental groups that climate change is one of the most important issues facing the world. Obviously this message isn't getting through according to the Times poll, but why is this?

The report said that only 41% of people excepted established scientific fact that global warning is a man made phenomenon. Almost a third (32%) held the view that the link had yet to be proven. 8% said it was environmentalist propaganda, and 15% said that global warning isn't even taking place!

These finding suggest to me that political leaders and environmental groups are failing to successfully argue the case of global warning. Secondly the consensus view that says global warning is real and man made has a number of sceptics amongst the public.

I don't always get the impression there's a real debate on climate change. The consensus view never seems to be challenged in mainstream media, but the poll by the Times suggests that there's an alternative view out there that isn't being heard.

Another thought I had when reading this report is this. I don't think that climate change is a major political issue for most people. What with the world economic crisis, and the ordinary concerns of day to day living, climate change isn't that big a deal!

I have to be honest myself and say that although I believe global warming is taking place and I appreciate its importance, it's never been top of my own political agenda.

There's so many worthy causes and political issues competing with each other for our attentions. For example I've always been concerned about human rights and I've been a member of Amnesty International for a number of years. Global warning is just as important as human rights but I just feel more passionate about human rights then I do about global warming.

So where's it all going wrong? Why aren't we being convinced by the politicians and environmentalist?

Firstly, the affects of climate change don't have that immediate and direct impact on most people's lives. We hear about how the world will be so many degrees hotter in 100 years time, but the majority of people today won't be around then. It's too far in the future so the dangers don't feel as obvious.

I know environmental groups will argue that this shouldn't matter, but it's still difficult to persuade people that the effects of industrialisation and the increase in C02 emissions will have potentially disastrous effects for future generations when there's so many other issues that concern people.

It's not like for example the threat of global terrorism, whereby people have seen and experienced the attacks of 9/11 in New York, or here in the UK with the 2005 London tube bombings.

You don't have that immediate threat and impact with global warming. I know you can argue that populations in the developing world are already suffering the consequences, but sometimes you have to accept that these people are too far away and distant for us in the West to identify with. I'm not saying that this is right, it's just how it is.

One of the problems I feel is that the threat of climate change has been over played. People have switched off from listening to apocalyptic visions of the future which despite scientific research are often the worst case scenarios

World leaders have a great opportunity next month at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit to convince sceptics that global warming is real and represents one of the world's biggest threats.

This conference will be the biggest climate change conference in history and will look for an agreement amongst the world's major industrial nations to reduce global C02 emissions over the next 10 - 20 years.

There's so many obstacles that need overcoming for the summit to be a success. Firstly world leaders need to convince people in their own countries of the threat of climate change.

Secondly that people in the West need to change and adapt their lifestyles; and finally in persuading growing economic powers like China and India that they need to limit their own economic growth and ambitions to combat against climate change. It's not exactly going to be easy. I'm doubtful as to what will be achieved at the summit.

I think there needs to be a new approach from politicians, scientists and environmental groups. Hearing nightmare visions of the future won't necessarily work in convincing people of the current problems we face.

The consensus of climate change may be universally held amongst these elites and protesters but perhaps a more subtle approach and some new strategies are needed to convince the sceptics out there.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Is X Factor killing pop music? No!

On Saturday I was reading an article in the Guardian entitled Is The X Factor killing pop. My first reaction was to think no it isn't! People are just taking the programme and the themselves far too seriously!

The feature reported that the singer Sting believed X Factor had:"put music back decades". This was said in his own words as part of his general attack on the show. I always find comments like this a little bit pretentious to be honest.

In previous years I haven't always been a huge fan of X Factor but to say a Saturday night singing competition is killing the music industry is rubbish!

The article highlighted the current dominance that the show has over the pop charts, and how in recent years the Christmas Number One has been exclusively held by the winner of the show.

Personally I can't think of a time where the charts have been more irrelevant to me. Who actually listens to the charts these days? I barely know who's number one anymore, and to be fair I don't need to know. The album charts are far more important and a more accurate reflection of what the public are listening to.

This type of attitude shown by Sting and other critics is just the same old argument about the merits between manufactured artists and supposedly 'proper' bands/artists. This is where some of the backlash against the X Factor is coming from.

I'm actually quite bored of hearing this argument now. X Factor performs two functions; yes there is the music element of trying to find a new star, and to be fair the programme's record of this has improved quite a bit in recent years.

Firstly with Leona Lewis, and now with JLS and last year's winner Alexandra Burke. The Second element is about providing pure Saturday night family entertainment. How else do you explain the appeal of Jedward?

Clearly you have to except that only a certain type of artist can win X Factor. There's no point watching the show expecting to find the new Blur or Radiohead, that's not going to happen. Bands like that would never go anywhere near X Factor and Simon Cowell wouldn't even pick them.

Why don't people just except that there are different routes to mainstream pop success. There's nothing inherently wrong with becoming a star through an X Factor style show.

If you've got talent and ability then what's the problem? The artists that I've mentioned such as Alexandra Burke and JLS seem to be doing well for themselves. They clearly have a good team of writers and producers behind them who can bring out the best in their talents. This is what you need.

The most successful girl group around at the moment are Girls Aloud and they emerged from a reality TV talent show, but again with good writers, producers and their own talent they've established a relatively long pop career producing good credible pop music.

I get the impression sometimes that people are always looking for someone or something to complain about, by saying this or that is killing 'real' music. It's increasingly boring to hear.

When I first started buying music in the late 1980s, critics always complained about the producers Stock Aitken and Waterman whose records dominated the charts. A certain 'national treasure' by the name of Kylie Minogue emerged from this production stable.

In the 1990s with dance music being quite big, there were too many 'faceless' dance acts dominating the charts and killing pop music! Now people are moaning about X Factor.

It's funny how back in the 90s you had the whole Britpop thing going on, and only a few years ago, you couldn't move for indie guitar bands dominating the charts. Nobody seemed to be complaining then!

I for one was getting tired of indie guitar music dominating, so I don't mind the fact that things seemed to have moved on a bit.

These so called 'real' bands have had their success and haven't been hampered by anyone. It's simply that music goes in cycles. You still have Glastonbury which is now the biggest music festival in the country.

It's now also a mainstream cultural event far removed from its 'alternative' roots! Live music has never been bigger, and many artists old and new make most of their money touring. Is X Factor killing this aspect of the music business? I don't think so.

Much of X Factor is simply Light Entertainment and Karaoke. At the end of it there may be one or two contestants who might have a certain something about them to go on and forge a pop career.

Good luck to them, I don't have a problem with this. Just don't tell me that their success is killing pop music and preventing supposedly 'proper' artists from developing. They're not!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Brazil 1 England 0

After watching the rugby, I moved onto the football hoping for something a little more exciting. Losing 1 - 0 to Brazil is hardly a disaster. It wasn't our strongest team in comparison to Brazil, but if we learned anything it's that if we're going to win the World Cup we've got to hope that our best eleven are 100% fit as our backups aren't quite good enough to beat the very best!

I missed the last fifteen minutes as I had to go out but I think I saw enough to pass comment.

England did ok, without really creating too much. Brazil are rightly ranked number one in the Fifa World rankings , with Spain right behind them, and I think those two teams are setting the bench mark for international football at the moment. England shouldn't be too disheartened.

But it's obvious that to have a genuine chance of doing anything at the World Cup we can't afford to have our most influential players unavailable. This means Rooney up front, Gerrard and Lampard in midfield, Terry and Ferdinand in central defence.

We all have to hope that the curse of the metatarsal doesn't strike again before the tournament begins or another injury crisis emerges. It has to be expected that during the course of a tournament, players will get injured or suspended and some of our second string players will have to come in and step up.

Saturday's game was a great opportunity for some of these players to really stake a claim and to be honest not many of them did.

I think that Fabio Capello knows this and realised from day one when he took over, that England have just enough decent players to seriously challenge the world's best, but we don't have much in reserve.

I have a lot of faith in Capello and I'm confident that he is, and will get the best of the England squad.

In general England shouldn't be too fearful of anyone in International football. Yes there are some good teams about, but with good organisation and discipline England should be a match for anyone.

Anyone that is except Brazil and Spain. I would have included Argentina with them, as I still think they have some really great players to pick from, none more so than Lionel Messi, but Maradona is doing his best to demonstrate how not to manage a major international football team and this is holding them back!

When it comes to England I've said this before, I'm just waiting for the potential World Cup Quarter Final Game. Anything less than that will be failure. The Quarter Final game is a minimum requirement and it's the game that matters. Win that one and we have a realistic chance of getting to the final and winning the World Cup.

It doesn't really matter to much to me what happens at the moment. No friendly game can re-create the tension and pressure of a knock out World Cup match. Everything is about building and developing the squad to take us past that Quarter Final game.

England 16 Argentina 9

Watched the rugby yesterday, pretty uninspiring stuff from England, but I suppose a win is a win . That's really all you can say though, as the performance was nothing to write home about! I can't see where this England team is going, except backwards. It could be humiliating next week against the New Zealand All Blacks!

The problem I think England have is that they don't know whether they're planning for the long term ie the next World Cup in 2011 or the short term, where it's simply about winning matches and building confidence.

If England's management team came out and said the ultimate aim is in building a team to challenge for the World Cup then that would be fine. England fans would know where they stand and what the a long term goal was.

Results wouldn't necessary be the most important thing, as building a team for the future and blooding young talent in the international arena would take priority.

But England haven't done this at all. It's probably too late to start bringing in young inexperienced players as it would only mean that England would potentially lose more matches due to this lack of experience.

On the other hand, the short term goals aren't really working either. I know there's a huge injury crisis at the moment which has weakened the squad for this Autumn's internationals, but it doesn't excuse yesterday's performance which was full of basic errors.

From the games I've watched, and listening and reading the comments of former players and commentators, it seems that England are too conservative and scared of losing.

There's no cutting edge to the play, no spark or imagination from the players. I get the impression that some of the players have been over coached to the point where they don't know how to think for themsleves on the pitch. Nobody wants to take chances or try something out of the ordinary.

At times yesterday against Argentina it was so tedious. Even England coach Martin Johnson admitted it was difficult to watch in places.

In the first half there was too much of an aimless kicking game that was boring to watch and achieved nothing; and if you want to instill confidence in players then a good start would be in playing people in their proper positions. Watching Ugo Monye at Full Back was painful as he dropped one high ball after the other.

It's asking too much to expect England to beat the All Blacks next week, I can't see how that's going to happen. Maybe a crushing defeat would be a good thing to really shake things up, so that major changes could be made. We can then hope that England can realistically compete in next year's Six Nations Championship something I'm not too sure we can. We'll have to see.

Bring on the All Blacks!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Innocent to remain on DNA Database

It was announced this week that the Home Office will be holding the DNA of innocent people arrested in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for no more than six years on the national database. Why are DNA profiles of innocent people being held for so long in the first place? I'm totally against this decision and see it as another example of this government's attempts to erode our civil liberties.

The Government has introduced this measure following the European Court of Human Rights ruling from last year, which stated that it was illegal for this country to hold the DNA of innocent people indefinitely on a national database.

I couldn't agree more with this ruling. Scotland seems to have the right idea, as they delete DNA profiles of individuals who are not charged with any offence. I don't understand why the Government doesn't apply this to the rest of the country.

The argument put forward in favour of a large scale DNA database is that it allows the police to use DNA to solve crimes. The Home Secretary Alan Johnson was quoted saying:

"It is crucial that we do everything we can to protect the public by preventing crime and bringing offenders to justice. "

Well this is obvious. Clearly there has been a number of high profile cases solved through the use of DNA, which has been accessed from the database.

The issue that should be noted is the relatively small number of crimes that are solved through this evidence, in relation to the large numbers of innocent people already on the database. I don't believe it's justifiable.

If you're arrested your DNA will be held under the following circumstances:

Convicted adults - indefinite
Unconvicted adults - six years
Unconvicted, but arrested for terrorism - possibly indefinite
First minor offence - five years
Second minor or first serious offence - indefinite
Unconvicted 16 to 17-year-olds - six years for serious offence, three years for minor offence

In addition to this, people who voluntarily provide their DNA to help with police investigations will also have their details held.

Personally this is something that I'd never do. Not because I don't want to help the police solve serious crimes, but because there's no reason why any government requires my profile to be stored.

The database came into existence in 1995 and to begin with only the DNA of convicted criminals was retained. The government then decided to change the laws in 2004 which meant anyone arrested for a recordable offence would have their DNA details held.

The clock should be turned back to before 2004 as the measures now introduced are a compromise, made to comply with the European Court legislation and appease civil liberty groups. It hasn't succeeded though.

Shami Chakrabarti the director of the civil liberties pressure group Liberty, was quoted on its website saying:

“It seems the Government still refuses to separate the innocent and the guilty and maintains a blanket approach to DNA retention...."

"Nobody disputes the value of DNA and anyone arrested can have a sample taken and compared to crime scenes. But stockpiling the intimate profiles of millions of innocent people is an unnecessary recipe for error and abuse...."

There are serious ethical questions that need to be considered when we think about a national DNA database.

I know it helps in solving more crimes and convicting criminals, but the problem I have is when you have so many innocent people on it. It implies that anyone is a potential criminal. We already have the largest DNA database in the world and I wonder what this says about the type of country we live in?

DNA evidence is mainly used in crimes of a sexual nature or murder, which despite media coverage and public perception are very rare crimes.

Secondly, your DNA profile is a physical part of you. Why should any government hold this information for such a significant period? What reasons do they have if you've never been found guilty of a crime?

Sometimes I think it's good to be a little bit suspicious when it comes to the motives of governments holding too much personal information about you. This probably explains why I was also against the introduction of compulsory ID cards.

Finally, I've discovered that certain groups of people are inadvertently discriminated against. For example, records show that black men are more likely to be arrested then other ethnic groups in the UK. This has resulted in a situation whereby 40% of all black men now have their DNA stored compared to 9% of white men.

To use the word 'disproportionate' is an understatement when you consider that black people in this country only make up 1% of the population!

Your DNA in my opinion should only be held indefinitely if you're arrested and convicted of a crime. If not it should be removed immediately.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Pointless Facebook friends requests

Another day, another pointless friends request on Facebook from someone I haven't spoken to since I was probably 10 years old. Someone who in no shape or form I would have considered a friend. Why are they bothering?

This is one thing that annoys me about Facebook. People who try to add you as a friend just for the sake of boosting their numbers. In most cases you haven't spoken to them in years and you were barely friends with them in the first place.

For me it's usually people I went to school with, or from the same area I grew up in. I log onto my hotmail account somedays to see an email telling me that such and such a person has added me as their friend. Always a name I've completely forgotten, and normally someone I'm not remotely interested in hearing about.

My first reaction is simply to groan, before saying to myself:

If we weren't friends 20 years ago, we're not friends now!

I have a growing list of people who have tried to add me, who I refuse to confirm as a friend. I just don't quite have the guts to press the ignore button. One person tried to add me on two occasions!

Why? Leave me alone!

For a lot of these people there's no reason why they should even want to add me. It's all just a pointless waste of time. Secondly some of my very best friends aren't even on Facebook. It's a joke to not have them on my profile, but instead to have people I last spoke to back in 1991!

One thing that might persuade me to add such people is if rather then just sending a friends request, they actually took the time and effort to write a proper message. Just something saying 'hi, how are you, how's your life going'

One kid I went to school with did this, and I really appreciated it. We exchanged a few emails and it was good to catch up. That's how it should be done.

For those of you thinking I'm being a killjoy, I'm not. I do like Facebook, and earlier this year I was fortunate enough to get back in touch with one of my closet childhood friends.

This was someone I hadn't seen in over ten years. We now meet up regularly when I travel home to stay with my parents and I know we're never going to lose touch again.

Before the internet and the growth of social networking sites, you met people throughout your life. People would come and go, before being lost in you own personal history. Now everyone you've ever crossed paths with is only a few mouse clicks away from getting back in contact with you.

Just move on. I don't need to have everyone from school or everyone I've ever worked with on my Facebook page, and a lot of these people certainly don't need me.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Time to pull out of Afghanistan?

I don't know about pulling out, maybe we need to start talking to the Taliban? More British soldiers dying and now more questions being asked about whether we should be in Afghanistan or not.

I wrote about this back in the Summer in a post entitled 'Can there really be a military victory in Afghanistan?' you can read it here.

I think everything I wrote then still applies now.

There's been a real failure by the government to communicate to the public how our presence there is really helping in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

Although I'm not 100% convinced that British troops should be pulled out completely, We may need to redefine our goals and objectives in the country into something that is realistically achievable.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall collapsed bringing an end to the Cold War. I can't believe it's Twenty years as it only seems like yesterday. It's obviously another sign of how old I'm getting; but looking back it was one of the most significant political events of my lifetime.

It's a bit of a cliche, but the Berlin Wall really was the biggest symbol of the ‘Iron Curtain’ and the division between the old Communist East and the Capitalist West.

Growing up in the 80s I thought there would always be this divide in the world. Before the rise of Islamic terrorism, the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries of Eastern Europe were the international 'bad guys', the enemy that was the biggest threat to our way of life.

This is why when the Wall fell, it felt like such an historic and revolutionary moment. For years I'd seen images and read about people who had risked their lives trying to escape across the Wall to the West for a better life.

In 1989 everything suddenly changed and it was all so quick! After growing protests and opposition to the East German government, people were suddenly dancing on top of the Wall, smashing it to pieces and celebrating their freedom.

At the time I remember thinking the world would be a much safer place from now on if our former enemies were now collapsing and embracing our political ideals.

Clearly this wasn't the case. The collapse of Communism ended up creating more new challenges and dangers with the effects still being felt today.

Having studied history at university, and particularly the rise of the Cold War, it seems that in the West we may have overrated the threat that the Soviets actually posed.

The regimes of the old Eastern bloc were not as strong as we might have imagined, and one by one the governments of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany all collapsed like dominoes!

In 1995 I spent a day in Berlin whilst inter-railing across Europe. It was amazing to be standing outside the Brandenburg Gate, to be beyond the 'Iron Curtain' and so soon after the Wall fell. I promised myself I would visit the city again to see how the city would develop after unification.

I haven't managed it yet, but I will make it back there someday.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The white beauty myth!

Earlier this week I was watching the second programme of Channel Four's documentary series Bleach, Nip, Tuck: The White Beauty Myth . It's part of a season of programmes entitled Race: The Last Taboo which the channel is currently showing.

This week's episode was both fascinating and depressing in equal measures. The programme focused on three people, one black women, and a man and women from Indian and Bangladeshi descent who all desperately wanted to change their features so that they could look more 'white'. At various points during the programme I sat there shaking my head at what I was watching!

The purpose of the show was to highlight the trend of supposed 'deracialisation surgery' which essentially means people from non European ethnic groups having plastic surgery so that they can have more white/European features which they believe to be more attractive.

All three thought their ethnic features made them less attractive, and in order to fit into British society and achieve success they had to change them.

The black girl from Essex thought her nose was too black and made her look poor! The Asian women of Bangladeshi origin wanted to lighten her skin as she believed she was too dark, and the man of Indian origin from Kent, wanted more European features so he would get more work as a fashion model.

Watching all of this it seemed obvious that they all had serious self esteem issues, and if anything they needed some form of counselling rather than plastic surgery.

I thought the most depressing aspect was the black girl called Jet, who appeared to want to cut herself off completely from her Afro-Caribbean background. Culturally I'd say she was white and she wanted to be white.

She was a proper Essex girl and at one point whilst being interviewed she had a Barbie doll which she claimed was the epitome of beauty! It was at moments like this that I was shaking my head!

I don't believe that most ethnic minorities given the chance would change their features to look more white, but the programme raised interesting questions about ideals of beauty and what constitutes attractiveness.

Within some black and Asian communities you are seen to be more attractive the lighter your skin and in Western culture the white European aesthetic is held to be the ultimate in attractiveness. Western culture says it is better to have a lighter complexion than a darker one.

All of this has been reinforced for hundreds of years, particularly through colonialism and it's incredibly difficult for such views to suddenly vanish over night.

You only have to look at the fashion industry as another example of the dominance of Western culture setting the bench mark of supposed beauty. The funny thing is, even most white people struggle to achieve this standard in terms of facial looks and physical features.

As an ethnic minority living in the West you have the challenge of being outside of the dominant culture, but you also have to integrate and assimilate with that culture on many levels in order to succeed in those societies. The challenge is to define yourself individually and for communities to define themselves, rather than let the dominant culture constantly define who or what you are.

There is great beauty in all races, but in the West you are exposed to images of one type of beauty dominating over all others.

A few years ago I went to visit my cousin who lives in Japan, before I went there I had never previously found the Oriental (not sure that term is political correct) or East Asian racial features attractive. Once out there I began to see there were loads of good looking women, but then I had to find the beauty in their features as there were no other racial groups out there!

I personally would never have plastic surgery on my face, I'm generally quite happy with the way I look. Thankfully I've got good levels of self esteem. I can fit in and successfully be part of British and Western culture perfectly well without the idea that my ethnic features are somehow a barrier or a hindrance to me.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Rise of the virtual mob!

Last week it was announced that the actor and comedian Stephen Fry had decided to quit the social networking site Twitter, after someone described one of his 'tweets' as being boring! Fry was quoted as saying "there is too much aggression and unkindness around"

The person who made the comment, a Richard Plum from Birmingham soon found himself the victim of a digital hate campaign from Fry supporters.

Talk about over the top! Plum was only expressing an opinion that was hardly that offensive! But it didn't stop a virtual mob posting over 1800 offensive remarks on his blog!

You speak to most people these days, and they're on some type of social networking site; Facebook, Twitter, Myspace are some of the most commonly known.

Overall these sites can be really good in the sense that they can link people and communities together. You can share, interact and express ideas and opinions with family, friends, and people from all over the world, but there does seem to be another darker side to social networking.

The attacks on Richard Plum were nothing more than a form of organised bullying which he didn't deserve. I'm glad that Stephen Fry actually made an apology and said he'd over-reacted, which of course he did. Why should such an innocuous comment generate so much abuse?

It's interesting though that only a few weeks earlier Fry had been on Twitter urging his followers to attack the Daily Mail journalist Jan Moir following her article on the death of the Boyzone singer Stephen Gately. The article was seen as being homophobic, and having read it I do agree that it was a poor article with a lot of innuendo and unfounded assumptions.

I didn't agree with it, but she was entitled to express her opinion. The reaction on Facebook and Twitter again had two sides to it.

On one side you had people mobilising themselves and arguing against what was seen as a homophobic attack on a dead singer which was all very good and commendable. On the hand though, some of the protests against Moir's article resembled an angry mob, shouting down someone's right to express an opinion.

The internet and social media is seen as a great way of enhancing democracy and giving more people a voice and a platform to express their thoughts, but there's fine line when people then join forces to voice opinions and disagreements that quickly descend into a mob rule that tries to suppress the freedom of speech of others.

Well done Boris!

I heard today that London's Mayor Boris Johnson intervened to stop a gang of teenage hoodies attacking a women with a metal bar last night.

I thought fair play to him for stepping in and having a go. As the figurehead for London it shows good leadership and sets an example to the rest of us that maybe we shouldn't always be afraid to step in and help others when they're being attacked or abused.

It made me laugh when I heard he'd chased after the attackers calling them 'oiks' How very Boris! But maybe he was lucky to be intervening in the right place at the right time?

What if it wasn't a couple of teenage girls but a gang of older lads? The story might have been very different. I always think that this is a dilemma that we face.

Sometimes in our hearts we'd all like to think that we'd help out and do the right thing by helping others, but then your head takes the more pragmatic approach and you realise you could just as likely to be on the receiving end of violence if you try and do something. Is it really worth it?

The sad thing is if we all take the pragmatic approach and do nothing, we're just sending out the wrong message. People can act as violently as they like in public and people will turn away and do nothing.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Should footballers have a code of conduct?

After the footballer Marlon King was sentenced last week to an 18 month jail term for attacking and sexually assaulting a 20 year old women. There's been calls for him to be banned from football for life. Spending time in prison shouldn't automatically mean that a person can't resume their chosen profession, but I've started to think about whether footballers should have some kind of written code of conduct in terms of their personal and professional behaviour?

Sanctions can be imposed upon footballers relating to their conduct on a football pitch. Players can miss games through suspension if they pick up too many yellow cards or receive a red card for a sending off offence.

I was wondering whether it would be possible for players to be banned from playing as a result of their own conduct outside the game? Should players receive an automatic suspension from the game if they receive a criminal conviction?

When you have incidents of bad behaviour from players, people argue that footballers are role models and should be setting a better example for people. If this is the case, why shouldn't players be banned or suspended from the game if their personal conduct undermines public perceptions of professional football?

I've started thinking about this as I work in the world of medical regulation. For the most part regulating doctors, and more recently a diverse range of health professionals.

In my experience, doctors and other health professionals can be 'struck off' and prevented from practising, if their personal conduct outside of a professional setting falls short of the standards of conduct and performance set out by the regulators.

Could we ever have a situation where footballers are 'struck off' and banned from playing the game because of their personal conduct?

At the moment each individual football team can take their own actions regarding the disciplining of players. Wigan have already announced that they have sacked King, but they still signed him knowing that he had a string of previous convictions . A list so long, you wonder how he hadn't spent more time in prison.

On his release any club will be entitled to sign King. Most clubs particularly Premier League ones wont touch him, but there will be someone out there interested. Under my proposals, nobody would be able to sign him, until his suspension or 'striking off' had be removed.

From what I know, footballers have registrations which are held by their clubs. I know it's unlikely, but maybe the FA, the Premier League and clubs could all agree that a player's registration will be removed or suspended for a period should a player be found guilty of misconduct as a result of an off the field incident.

In the case of someone like Marlon King, once he's released he'd have to demonstrate and explain why he should be allowed to play again. I suppose it would be like parole board meeting. If it was decided that he should be allowed to resume his career then clubs interested in signing him could make their interest known.

To be honest I'm not sure whether any of this could ever really be implemented by any of football's governing bodies and interest groups. But I do believe that some footballers and it's usually a minority, need to take more responsibly for their own actions and conduct away from the pitch and realize the significance and consequences their actions have on their clubs and the professional game in general.