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Home > Culture and Society


26 May 2006

TFT is not proud to admit that we once blagged our way into a Football Association press conference, with the sole purpose of taking the piss out of the England manager. It was the week following Sven Goran Eriksson's fake sheiking, and the whole world and his dog wanted words with the man himself. 'Any questions?' asked the FA spokesman, at last. A sea of hands. Sven immediately pointed to the blonde hackette from 'Take a Break' magazine. 'When it's cold,' she asked 'Do you think they should play football indoors?'

'Oh, for fuck's sake,' said three hundred people, simultaneously, Sven included, and it was a joy to behold.

As this little episode illustrates, we know what three hundred people saying 'Oh, for fuck's sake' sounds like. You might like to experience this yourself by walking into any cinema this week and shouting, 'The Grail's in the Louvre'. Now, try multiplying this by 20,000, and you will get the sound of six million viewers, all clutching their tickets with over-inflated optimism, as Fathers 4 Justice did their turn on the National Lottery Show.

'Oh, for fuck's sake. They're back.'

Now, we've got no real problem with Fathers 4 Justice, per se. They represent the important notion that fathers' rights should be equally valid in the eyes of the law following the break-up of any relationship. In a legal system that claims to promote equality and human rights, they point out its ridiculous failures, leaving otherwise loving parents stranded outside a family relationship. By wearing their pants outside their trousers.

Our problem with F4J is this: they're just so bloody awful at protesting. Yes, they're high profile. Yes, they get their issues in the news. But - God help us - they could use some decent PR. Dressing up as Batman is one thing, invading parliament, and/or closing off half the main roads across East London by perching on a crane is quite another. While they get column inch coverage, it's of the wrong kind, and only make protesting that much more difficult for other, less intense, more sanity-driven protest groups. While the government are trying to scare us stupid with terr'ists, F4J give them all the ammunition they need to hermetically seal government from the people.

F4J have come up against the wall faced by most pressure groups. Does protesting actually work? Millions, after all, marched against the Iraq War, yet the invasion still happened, and Labour still won the general election. London endured a day full of braying horsey types, traipsing across our city like they owned it, leaving shop doors open and guzzling real ale in our pubs, yet hunting with dogs was still banned. And Labour still won the general election.

Gandhi, you might remember, got a long way through peaceful, thoughtful protest that didn't hurt a fly. In fact, as a satyagrahi, he got a whole country out of the British Empire through the tactic of meditation, peace, and waiting until the Governor General's guard was down before nipping him in the scrotum and running away laughing. Gandhi had no need to climb up the Taj Mahal with his pants on outside his dhoti, F4J take note.

Like any single-issue organisation that attracts a certain kind of person *cough* UKIP *cough* who likes to think the whole shebang is run for their benefit, F4J has cleaved more times than a glacier. Like the republican movement, there's now the Real F4J, to be followed closely by the Continuity F4J, I Can't Believe It's The F4J and the People's Front of Judea (Officials). While F4J was set in motion with the best of intentions to restore fathers' rights, they appear to have created a huge, publicity-seeking monster that cannot be stopped.

If F4J's finest must insist on becoming superheroes, perhaps they might try to work on their relationship with the real arch-villains of the piece: 'Shrill Peroxide Harpy Who I Should Never Have Married In The First Place' Woman, and 'Smug Toyota Avensis-Driving Bastard Who Sees My Kids More Than I Do And Has His Own Business But I'm Still Paying Them Five Hundred Quid A Month See That Hot Tub? I'm Paying For That He's Welcome To The Old Trout' Man. Hardly snappy names for any superhero's nemesis, but we're working on it. And now you come to mention it: 'Child Support Agency Clerical Officer Sorry Sir We've Lost Your File I'll Need To Put You On Hold' Boy.

The parents have a very serious point to make, that the system is hopelessly biased against them. And desperate men do desperate things. We should know: many's the time we've bought a Michael Bolton CD in the vain hope of impressing the ladies. But surely, dressing up as Batman should be reserved for those special nights leaping from the top of the wardrobe. Why, we beg, can't they just do something unashamedly popular? Preferably something involving Cherie Blair and a rolled-up copy of the Hutton Report.


And another thing. While we're on the subject, surely there must be some sort of anti-bravery award due to Eamonn Holmes for his sterling work during the F4J studio invasion? While Sue Lawley famously sat on lesbian studio invaders, Eamonn did the decent thing and hid behind his female co-presenter. Grand work there, Eamonn.

Meanwhile, his recent autobiography is shaping up to be one of the worst ever published.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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