Friday, 30 May 2008

Another Blair Foundation

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, launched (for the second, or possibly third time) today in New York, has had enough attention. Also, I don't see any need to add much to what I said before. Blair's speech today was typically vague. On the one hand, "There are many excellent meetings, convocations, conferences and even organisations that work in the inter-faith area. We do not want to replicate what they do." On the other hand, "We want to produce greater understanding between faiths through encounter."

The former PM's faith foundation is best understood, I think, as an effort to promote the continuing importance of Tony Blair in a changing world. As such, it is probably doomed to failure. But at least it has attracted a measure of interest. Less well known (at least I hadn't heard of it) is the Tony Blair Sports Foundation.

I only discovered it as a result of a small link at the bottom of the Faith Foundation website, but it seems quite jolly. Currently operating in the North East, it's mainly involved in recruiting coaches for local schools. But its aims are nothing if not ambitious:


In the run-up to the Olympics and beyond, the Foundation will increase participation in sport by young people, particularly those who are currently socially excluded – by inspiring more adults to become trained coaches; by providing access to high quality nationally-accredited training for those we recruit; and by helping to match coaches with the schools and sports clubs which need them.


For the moment, though, it is concentrating on indoor rowing, which is claimed to be "an effective method of combating childhood obesity and inactivity". Moreover:

It successfully targets those who do not take part in traditional PE programmes, including girls, the overweight, ethnic minorities and those with physical disabilities and learning difficulties. Head teachers confirm that integrating it into the curriculum enables them to fulfil OFSTED criteria. Teachers have the opportunity to develop cross curricular links with ICT, Mathematics, Science and PSHE.


This is quintessential Blair. From the list of groups supposed not to take part in "traditional" PE programmes (Ethnic minorities? So where did all our black footballers and Olympic champions come from?) to the invocation of bureaucratic box-ticking, it manages to miss the whole point of sport. "Indoor rowing" isn't really a sport at all, of course, any more than using an exercise bike has any connection with the Tour de France. The website even has a quote from Steve Redgrave admitting as much: "Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is about rowing," the multiple gold-medallist says. "It is not."

But then the Blair Faith Foundation doesn't seem to have much to do with religion, either. Rather, it's about using religion as to somehow oil the wheels of globalisation and the geopolitical shift to the (largely non-religious) Far East. Religion, says Blair (and he should know) can cause hatred and division, but

If... it becomes an instrument of peaceful co-existence, teaching people to live with difference, to treat diversity as a strength, to respect "the other", then Faith becomes an important part of making the 21st Century work.

Which is a bit like saying that if rowing ceases to be about propelling a boat down a river more quickly than the other team's boat, then it becomes an important part of achieving the government's anti-obesity targets.

Same wine, different bottles.

3 comments:

valdemar said...

I live in the North East, and am getting a bit fed up with all the most idiotic aspects of Noo Labourism being inflicted on us. We rejected a devolved assembly, maybe that's what led to the campaign of persecution. We have ludicrous creationist claptrap being taught as science in a state school (Emmanuel College, just down the road), and now non-aquatic rowing.
Other wonderful spinoffs from the Blair revolution include the Baltic modern art 'space' that hardly anybody visits, and what may be the crappiest transport infrastructure in Western Europe.
Thanks a bundle, Tone. Hey, why not go for a walkabout in Basra to discuss faith issues with the locals? It could be announced well in advance to be sure of a decent crowd.

maxima culpa said...

He's living proof of Burton's line: "The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself." That someone of his utter vacuity could have lasted ten years at the top is proof that our system is rotten to the core. If I were Catholic I'd apostatize. Blair does more for atheism than Dawkins and Hitchens combined.

Brian Brown said...

Blair's gone totally bonkers. The man is a deluded fool.