David Beckham. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Fan: what happened to David Beckham's silly voice?

For years, his teammates and the whole world mocked his silly, high-pitched voice, suggesting he was a bit simple, making endless jokes about his stupidity. Now, he sounds clear and low and serious.

Two mysteries have been bugging me. The first concerns David Beckham. Did you see him in the Only Fools and Horses sketch for Sport Relief? Of course you didn’t. You have much better things to do. He was excellent: he did the part of David Beckham so well and looked handsome, well dressed and fit, compared to poor old Del Boy and Rodney, who looked grey and worn, struggling to get their words out and their expressions straight. It was to do with Del Boy selling dodgy David Beckham underpants with Rodney doing the modelling and . . . Come on, you did see it, I know you lot.

The mystery was David Beckham’s voice. Not only did he speak clearly, with quite a received-English pronunciation, but deeply. His voice has gone down an octave. For years, his teammates and the whole world mocked his silly, high-pitched voice, suggesting he was a bit simple, making endless jokes about his stupidity.

In the dressing room after a victory, David Beckham hears Roy Keane asking for a cortisone injection. “Oh, that’s not fair, boss! I want a new
car as well.”

David Beckham is celebrating. “Fifty-seven days!” he shouts.

Posh asks him why he is celebrating. “I’ve done this
 jigsaw in only 57 days. It says three to five years on the box!”

Today we all know how smart, hard-working, successful and nice he is, despite being lumbered with that silly voice. Has he, like Thatcher, acquired a voice coach who has trained him to sound so much more impressive and authoritative?

The other big mystery of the week is José Mourinho – what is his game? Two minutes before the end of Chelsea stuffing Arsenal 6-0, he was seen to leave the bench and go down the tunnel. Heh up, we all thought, he doesn’t want to shake Wenger’s hand, the cheeky sod – no, nasty sod. He recently described Wenger as a “specialist in failure” and once referred to him as a voyeur, so we all know how horrible he’s been to him over the years. But he was the home manager and custom requires a certain magnanimity in victory, so he might have waited to shake Wenger’s hand.

Afterwards, he was asked why he had left early. He paused, his lips slightly curling into a smile, his eyes amused but calculating. It was his wife, he explained. He was going to ring her to tell her the score. You what? “She is waiting for me to call. She is always in doubt because she doesn’t know the result.”

Do you believe that? Nem me. He met his wife, Matilde, when they were teenagers and married her in 1989, before he became a manager. They have two children. She either has a radio or TV on and is aware of the score or doesn’t care and waits for him to tell her when he gets home. Pretending that he rings her after every game makes him look ever so uxorious, with the right family values. He was rubbing it into Wenger, showing how easy victory was.

I was so delighted by Mourinho’s return to these shores. He is just so smart and entertaining. He speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish, Catalan and Italian and is adept at language games, getting under the skin of his enemies. He has always had a nasty streak, smearing a referee some years ago who then got death threats and retired prematurely. While at Real Madrid, he seemingly attempted to gouge the eye of a Barça coach – saying afterwards that he hadn’t recognised who it was.

He is a master of posing. When he was at Porto, he used to sit on the end of the bench during vital Euro Championship games – looking the other way, knowing the cameras would catch him. That was so cool. Chelsea is currently at the top of the Prem but he still says they won’t win it. It’s a calculated response, like all of his performances.

Recently Tim Sherwood, Spurs’ novice manager, told us how honest and sincere he was, how he’d never pretend: “There are too many actors in this game.” At the time, I wondered who he meant. Step forward, Becks and José . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 03 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, NEW COLD WAR

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.