Sir Steve Redgrave: did he or any of
the ‘Useful Idiots’ spare a

though for the protesters
murdered by the Chinese?

This week China imprisoned a dissident for several years for having the temerity to speak his mind; its forces of repression have mercilessly shot down another eight demonstrators in Tibet as well as wounding dozens more, to add to the 150-odd dead already on Beijing’s Butcher’s Bill. By way of comparison the South African Police shot 69 at Sharpeville in 1960.

To their eternal shame, numerous prominent sportsmen and women as well as the likes of Sir Trevor MacDonald, who really ought to know better, have been doing their bit as ‘Useful Idiots’ today as they parade Beijing’s Torch around our capital city.

Anyone who tries to assert that this is ‘all about sport’ and that politics should be kept at bay are surely living on another planet. Already the published views of Sir Steve Redgrave, first but not the last of the said ‘Useful Idiots’, are being used by China’s propaganda machine and he and his kind are deluding themselves and ignoring the lessons of history if they think that this exercise is not about the greater glory and political objectives of Communist China.

Sir Simon Jenkins, in his apposite piece today in the Sunday Times, reminds us of just how blatant the political content of the torch parade in fact is:

…….today’s London run, which began in Athens last month, will return to China by touching down in Lhasa, Tibet. There it will meet a torch from the summit of Everest. The centrality of Lhasa to the tour is to emphasise that Everest is in China by virtue of being in Tibet. It is not the protesting Tibetans who are polluting sport with politics, but their Chinese overlords.

He might also have gone on to make the point that China, by having the torch arrive via Everest and Lhasa, both of which are in the territory of Tibet which it invaded in 1950 and which is no more and no less than a Chinese colony, has itself deliberately politicised the torch procession. Their choice of Tibet as the means of the torch’s ingress into China itself is a particularly provocative in-your-face means of saying to the world that Tibet is part of China.

It is that assertion that the ‘Useful Idiots’ particularly aid and abet today by their shameful conduct.

But we must not lose sight of the more general aid and comfort which they give to a regime which kills and persecutes its own citizens, suppresses free speech and maintains itself in power by terror.

Looking at the scene as it unfolds, one can only observe that today has been an unmitigated public relations disaster for China. Not that its people will see any of it, unless they are members of the party and have access to media outlets forbidden to ordinary Chinese. But to the world as a whole, the fact that the torch can only be got on its way by having the Metropolitan Police provide it with its own Praetorian Guard (and in places can only proceed by bus) represents a telling and significant defeat for China’s propaganda aims. No wonder Gordon Brown when he came out of his bunker to greet the torch in Downing Street made sure he did not lay a finger upon it. How long, though, before the blood it represents is washed from Downing Street itself?

Yesterday Sir Steve Redgrave wrote of his pleasure at being a torch-bearer. It is one of the strengths of this country that he is both able to write freely of that pleasure and that he is able to exercise a free choice about whether to take part in this exercise. One wonders, however, if, as he ran today with the torch aloft, he pondered on the hundreds of demonstrators shot down in Tibet in recent weeks, on the Chinese gulags filled with those who had the temerity to express their views openly or gave any thought to the families of those murdered by the Chinese State.

One is left with the thought that if all this gives him pleasure, so be it. Most of us, on the other hand, will think it a strange sort of pleasure.