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The Shop Window of Honesty
28 Jan, 2020

L4E Secretary Andy Pye looks at the role of honesty on the High Street, as well as in rugby union and politics.

As we browse the online stores from the comfort of our armchairs, we mourn the demise of our High Streets, with their boarded-up premises, fast food outlets and betting shops. But even before the major brands moved out to the out-of-town shopping malls, or closed down altogether, the traditional shop window was often a source of disappointment.

The shopper would see an attractive item on display, only to find on entry that the store had sold out, or was not available in the size required. And so the shop window was a thin veil of honesty, designed only to tempt the onlooker inside, where every effort would be made to sell them something different.

Such disappointments are not limited to shopping. Many aspects of modern life are based on a thin veil of honesty covering the true reality underneath. Even sport is not immune.

A report in The Times this weekend (paywall) discusses the scandal surrounding Saracens RFC, signatories to the agreement that made a salary cap a fundamental rule, but who have since argued that a salary cap is anti-competitive and violates European Union law!

For many years, the Sarries’ support base grew, as those who will support a winning side at all costs sign up to cheer their side on. Yet, now a sub-culture of finding ways around the salary cap has been exposed. It is beyond dispute that Saracens created a culture that was perhaps the most impressive in European rugby. That’s gone, shown up for what it was, a brilliant shop window hiding as much as it revealed. Many rugby fans believe the club should hand their trophies to Exeter Chiefs, who given a level playing field, would have won.

Honesty has been touted as one of the club’s four core values. The word has become part of the Saracen brand: “Live the values, don’t just talk” are the words they write alongside “Honesty”. It turns out to have been just talk.

Sound familiar? Here we are with Brexit days away and its army of fans delighting in their victory and the opportunity to rub the Remainers' noses in it, as Lord Heseltine describes the vanity projects coming our way.

But behind the thin veil of the glorious victory is another narrative: already, the Withdrawal Agreement has been amended to remove workers' rights and environmental protection. Wealth, we hear, is to be redistributed from the Northern towns to the wealthy southern commuter belt. And worst of all, the army of Tory yes-men have voted against the rights of child refugees. And this is just the start. Not all is what it seemed.

Ironically, the Saracens story was first uncovered in the Daily Mail, which is an unlikely ally in our fight for honesty. But others will step up to the plate and it is only a matter of time before the full extent of Brexit lie is exposed.

Meanwhile, Saracens’ punishment of relegation from rugby union's top flight at the end of this season has been confirmed. Sarries had already been deducted 35 points for the current Premiership campaign and fined £5.4m for three seasons' spending above the cap. Proof of immediate cap compliance was required to avoid further sanctions.

In a statement, the club said the following (just imagine this were the current Government talking): "Our goal is to rebuild confidence and trust. The board must embody the values of the club, learn from its mistakes so the club can come back stronger. It is in the wider interests of the Premiership and English rugby to take this decisive step, to ensure everybody is able once again to focus on the game of rugby, which we all love."

In this story, Remainers play the part of the Exeter Chiefs, the side that remains in the Premiership when relegation arrives. And likewise we must be around to resume control whenever the opportunity comes.

Perhaps there is an exception to the shop window rule? We know how swans can gracefully glide across a pond whilst paddling furiously under the surface. But they almost always achieve their objective. And any resemblance of a swan to our current PM is purely coincidental.

London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe. No swans were hurt during the preparation of this article.