David Beckham. Photo: Getty
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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 Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.