The Invictus Games would not have happened without Prince Harry. Photo: Getty
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Prince Harry speaks human, the Newsnight conundrum and the lessons of London 2012

Roger Mosey’s Diary.

An unglamorous meeting room in Victoria with a view of a construction site was the venue for the final meeting of the Invictus Games board before the event begins less than three weeks from now. I signed up for the project at the end of last year because it was a chance to work again with some of the people who delivered London 2012 – with a good cause attached. But in the months since then the mission of supporting our wounded, injured and sick service personnel through the power of sport has become a genuinely stirring one.

Whatever you think about the wars of the 21st century, these are men and women whose lives have been changed for ever; and we saw in the Paralympics how sport can transcend disability. Some of the performances next month in the Olympic Park will be slower and less expert, but I’ll be astonished if spectators and TV viewers aren’t enthralled and uplifted by what they see.

 

Harry talks human

The Games wouldn’t have happened without Prince Harry. I sense the NS isn’t the most natural place to praise princes, but it was Harry’s experience at the Warrior Games in the US that drove him to create Invictus here. He turns up at every meeting and is a royal mile away from his tabloid image, turning out to be smart, politically astute and good at “doing human”. If you define a successful politician as someone most voters would like to go for a beer with, Harry, in another life, would be in electoral landslide territory.

 

Keep the flame alight

A trip to Japan this summer was a cheering reminder of what hosting major sport events can achieve. I was working with the Japanese broadcaster NHK, which will be covering the Tokyo 2020 Olympics; and it was initially disconcerting to find that my hosts had collated all the comments I’d made as a BBC executive about London 2012 from 2005 onwards. There were one or two “Lord knows why I said that” moments, but it also showed how events that bring the nation together are at the heart of what public service broadcasting is about. Sport is uniquely good at that, but the trick Britain pulled off in the summer of 2012 was to have all its national institutions working together to create and capture the spirit of a new kind of country. Glasgow 2014 did the same for Scotland within the Commonwealth.

That’s why I envy the Japanese having their chance to redefine their country to themselves and to the world in six years’ time; and in this August of unremittingly awful news it would be good for us to remind ourselves about what the UK got right in 2012 and how we might keep that spirit alive.

 

Gee up, Newsnight

It’s possibly because of the grimness of the news agenda that I find myself ending the day with BBC2’s Newsnight less often than I used to. I admire the energy that Ian Katz has brought to the role of editor, but there’s a sense he could be flogging a dying horse.

Twenty-four-hour news channels and all the commentary online make it ever harder to offer a definitive take on the day, and over on Radio 4 the Today programme mops up the key interviews. The senior corres­pondents’ pieces for the adjacent BBC and ITV ten o’clock bulletins cut away yet more of Newsnight’s territory. Jeremy Paxman’s ability to create a sense of theatre even on a dull night is missed.

I would move the programme to a new slot: start it at 11pm and give it up to an hour, with a brief to be more discursive. It should improve its coverage of science and culture. It could incorporate analysis of the newspaper first editions in the way that works well on Sky and the BBC News channel, and focus on intelligent viewers and alternative voices. It should disregard the ratings. One reason this may never happen is that there’d be one of those spurious media fusses about losing the 10.30 slot; but unless the programme is reimagined, and radically, it will merely lurk as the ghost of glories past.

 

Footie drama in sharp acoustics

Match of the Day celebrated its 50th anniversary as an altogether sprightlier thoroughbred. It is something of a miracle that such a great footballer as Gary Lineker is a wonderful presenter too, because there isn’t a long list of former England players who could be decent pundits, let alone steer the whole show.

A curiosity to some people is that one of the best commentators in the business, John Murray, still occupies himself mainly with radio and hasn’t moved across to television. But why should he? If the pictures in a drama are better on the radio, so football in sound-only offers a platform for a commentator in which he alone captures the game for listeners; and that’s more exciting than telling people what they can already see on a 40-inch HD screen.

 

Nothing like a long-eared cat

An addition to my life in Cambridge in the past few months has been a basset hound called YoYo. She has proven how good an ice-breaker dogs can be: she was an instant hit with most of the students, and has the placid temperament and soulful eyes that win affection. I say “dog” but that’s not how she’s officially categorised, because college rules allow no animals save for the Master being allowed to keep a cat. I therefore received permission from the Selwyn College Council to acquire “a very large cat”.

A visiting conference of American judges thought this was a glorious manifestation of Cambridge traditions, and for a while every time I left the house with the dog in tow I was greeted by a shout of, “Hey, I love your cat!” Happily, YoYo is not alone as a college dog; I believe there are two more in residence in Master’s Lodges elsewhere, with at least one more expected this October.

Cats should look out: dogs are on the march in academia, even if they have to gain entry under false pretences. l

Roger Mosey was the BBC’s director for the London 2012 Olympic Games and is Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge

Roger Mosey is the Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He was formerly editorial director and the director of London 2012 at the BBC.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The new caliphate

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What are the consequences of Brexit for the refugee crisis?

Politicians neglected the refugee crisis whilst campaigning – but they shouldn't now concede to the darker undertones of the debate.

In the chaotic aftermath of Brexit, the refugee crisis seems like a distant memory. Yet not even a year has passed since the body of a young Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach, shocking the world.

When campaigning for the EU referendum began, politicians neglected the crisis. Not because the situation had ameliorated, but because the issue had become strategically toxic. Nigel Farage's infamous poster aside, the Leave side preferred scare stories about economic migrants rather than refugees; the Remain side because the refugee crisis, more than anything else since its inception, highlighted the fragility of the ideals that underpin the European Union.

Many of the main issues aired in the course of the referendum debate were related to the refugee crisis, regardless of how little it impacted on them in reality; immigration, strain on public services, national identity. The refugee crisis became a proxy issue; implied, but not addressed, for fear of detrimental impact in the polls.

However, in his repugnant posters (it should be stressed, nothing to do with Leave campaign itself), Nigel Farage made explicit what he thought posed the greatest threat to the UK. Rightly, the posters have been condemned by both sides of the referendum debate, but the underlying suspicion of refugees it reflects has concerned many organisations.Their concern has only been exacerbated by the result of the referendum. The spike in hate crime compounds their fears.

Paul Dillane, head of UKLGIG, a charity that supports LGBTI asylum seekers to the UK, expressed unease at the reaction of his clients: “The asylum seekers I work with do not understand the decision that has been made – they feel vulnerable, they feel unwelcome. Yes the law hasn’t changed, and if they’re at risk of persecution, they will be protected. But they don’t feel like that now.”

Despite the troubling situation, the result of the referendum changes little when it comes to refugee law. “Refugee policy is shaped in London, not in Brussels”, said Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugees Action. “The decision about how well we support refugees in terms of integration is a matter for the UK, not Brussels. The number of Syrian refugees we choose to resettle is a matter for the UK, not Brussels.”

Although the law may not have changed, from a diplomatic or political perspective, the same cannot be said. This does have the power to negatively impact legislation. Post-Brexit reaction in France surrounding the Touquet Treaty typifies this.

The Touquet Treaty, reached between the UK and France in 2003, permits each country to carry out passport checks on the other countries’ soil. It is what, according to French politicians in Calais, has accelerated the growth of the "Jungle", which currently accommodates close to 5,000 refugees.

Because the agreement was signed outside the auspices of the European Union, Brexit does not affect its legal legitimacy. However, for France, EU membership was crucial to the nature of the agreement. Speaking earlier this year, Harlem Desir, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, said the Touquet Treaty is “a bilaterial agreement. So, there will be no blackmail, nor threat, but it’s true that we cooperate more easily in both being members of the EU.”

Natacha Bouchart, mayor of Calais and a long-time critic of the treaty, has been vocal in her demands for legislative change since the result. Speaking to French broadcaster BGM TV, she said: “The British must take on the consequences of their choice. We are in a strong position to push, to press this request for a review and we are asking the President to bring his weight to the issue.” Some have adopted the slogan of the Leave campaign, telling them to now “take back control of your borders.”

Modification of the Touquet Treaty was branded part of ‘Project Fear’ by the Leave campaign. Because of this, change – if indeed it does happen – needs to be handled carefully by both the British and French governments.

The reaction of Natacha Bouchart is already a worrying sign for refugees. Firstly, it perpetuates the toxic narrative that casts refugees as an inconvenience. And secondly, any souring of relations between the UK and France over Brexit and the Touquet Treaty only increases the likelihood of refugees being used as political bargaining chips in the broader EU crisis over Schengen.

A divided government and disintegrating opposition do little to aid the situation. Furthermore, come October, how likely is a Brexit Tory cabinet – governing off the back of a manifesto predicated on reducing immigration – to extend the support networks offered to refugees? Even before the referendum, Theresa May, a supporter of the Remain campaign, said that Britain should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, replacing it with the more questionable Bill of Rights.

Uncertainty of any kind is the most immediate danger to refugees. “Everyone is talking about it,” said Clare Mosesly, founder of Care4Calais. “But opinions on the impact are divided, which is creating yet more uncertainty.” Refugees, unsure whether Brexit will lead to increased fortification of the border, are prone to take ever more dangerous risks to reach the UK. Even economic uncertainty, seemingly distinct from issues such as the refugee crisis or immigration, has a negative impact. “The thing that worries me about a fragile economy”, said Paul Dillane, “is that when a country’s economy suffers, minorities suffer as well. Tolerance and inclusivity are undermined.”

The government must stress that the welcoming principles and legislation Britain had prior to Brexit remain in place. Andrej Mahecic, from the UNHCR, said “we will continue to rely on the UK’s strong support for humanitarian responses to refugee crises. Our work with the government on the UK’s asylum system and refugee resettlement schemes continues.”

The will from NGOs is there. The political will is less assured. In the aftermath of Brexit, the government must not concede to the darker side of the referendum debate.