Saturday 6 April 2024

Avoiding rules made by foreigners


Rishi Sunak continually refers to the European Court of Human Rights as a “foreign court”, despite the UK’s honourable role in creating it and writing its rules, and its equal say in appointing the judges. This week, he was asked why by an SNP MP. His brief reply was to say “Because it is based in Strasbourg”. As a statement of fact, it is unusually honest; as an argument for distancing the UK from it, or even withdrawing entirely, it’s on the weak side of pathetic. It’s probably reasonable to assume that he believes that the voters to whom he is trying to appeal regard the very fact of its being based outside the UK as being sufficient grounds for having nothing to do with it. And there are certainly a lot of those dreaded foreigners in Strasbourg.

He might even be right, but if he is, he’s surely missing a trick here politically. If withdrawing, or threatening to withdraw, from an international body based in a foreign country on the grounds of its very foreignness is a vote-winner, there are plenty of other organisations from which withdrawal might be even more popular. The one which immediately springs to mind is FIFA. To start with, it’s based in Zurich, and it would be hard to identify anywhere more closely associated with internationalism than Switzerland. As everyone (well, everyone in the Conservative Party, at least) knows, the city is fully of peace-loving leftie foreigners, some of whom even have the effrontery to be lawyers, and none of whom can be trusted further than they can be thrown.

On top of that, FIFA demands that Ingerland use the same rules as everyone else, and even has the gall to make the Ingerland team play against assorted foreigners in a tournament, rather than simply being awarded the World Cup in perpetuity as they are entitled to expect. If half a pledge to withdraw from a court which merely stops the UK government deporting a handful of people to central Africa is as popular as he thinks, imagine how popular a pledge to withdraw from FIFA might be. It would enable Ingerland to choose who they play as well as setting their own rules: winning could become the norm rather than the exception.

I don’t understand what’s holding him back. It’s not as if this is any less honest than the Brexit prospectus, and that worked well for his party at the time. He could even hire a bus and put a slogan on the side pledging to spend the UK’s (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would all be instructed to follow Ingerland’s lead, naturally) contributions to FIFA on the NHS instead. Or even use the simple but meaningless slogan so beloved of Ingerland fans: Football's coming home. It would give him a better chance of saving a few seats than anything else he's tried so far.

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