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Home > Politics

Blunkett's brain damage

1 October 2004

Last week we were moaning on like someone's grandfather about the fact that there isn't really a great deal for young people in poor neighbourhoods to do in their free time. But we hadn't taken into account the fact that, like someone else's grandfather, David Blunkett was already investing in the noble art of poor people hitting each other till one of them falls down and can't get back up.

As part of a 'social inclusion project', Blunkett is funding 26 boxing training centres, hoping to encourage young people from poor urban areas to hit each other for money. Of course, Amir Khans don't come along every day, so it's more likely that there won't actually be any money involved. Except for the gym memberships fees, the cost of the gear and future medical bills. But there will be lots of hitting.

Blunkett explained the logic: 'Amateur boxing training can give young people the chance to keep fit, learn sportsmanship and self-discipline,' he said. Well, yes. But so can ice-dance. So can formation swimming. And just about any other of the less bloodthirsty sports. Perhaps fearing that people might make the connection between boxing and violence, Blunkett failed to mention the fact that well-trained fists can come in very handy in self-defence. But maybe he just didn't want people to point out that martial arts such as judo offer the same skills, but without leaving little Frank Brunos all over the estate.

He went on. 'Amateur boxing is an activity that more and more young people from deprived neighbourhoods are choosing to become involved in.' So what? That doesn't mean it should be encouraged. They're only fighting one another because there's fuck all else for them to do. OK, it's better than dealing crack, but only just. And not in every respect. Is that really the best we can offer our disaffected youth - lessons in how to best pummel one another into a coma? Surely there are more constructive, less painful avenues to suggest? What about training in film-making for example? Or theatre? Music? Graffiti? And if we must limit ourselves to the predominantly physical, what about climbing? Modern dance? Hiking? Orienteering? Jesus, anything but boxing.

Blunkett acknowledged that boxing 'may not have the associated glamour other sports', such as rollerball or badger-baiting, but he insists it does give young people 'status and an opportunity to make something of their lives - and how can that be a badthing?' Erm... brain damage? Perhaps at the end of the day,
Blunkett doesn't consider the brains of our children particular important. Or perhaps it's just his wicked way of eradicating inner-city strife. A kind of invidious sporting eugenics programme, where everyone dumb or desperate enough to step into the ring gets the easily-turned-off life support machine they

In the words of the BMA, 'Funding should be directed to activities that do not present the risk of deliberate brain injury to young people.' And it really is that obvious. So why the hell can't Blunkett see it?

Now the idea of *him* in a boxing ring on the other hand. That would be sport at its best. And at absolutely no risk to anyone's brain.

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

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