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

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The clever ideological trick that could save the Labour party

The Co-operative party could suddenly get a lot more popular. 

It’s do or die for the party’s moderate MPs, who have lost the fight for the soul of Labour and must quickly move on. 

The 172 Labour MPs who backed a no-confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year may not like their newly elected party leader much, but they loathe John McDonnell. 

So it is little surprise that one of them, John Woodcock, reportedly looked “sick to the stomach” when the Shadow Chancellor tenderly invited him for a cuppa in his office following the leadership election result at conference. Reading the tea leaves tells me those talks aren’t going to go well.  

Yet moderate MPs would do well to revisit McDonnell’s off-the-cuff comments from a few years back: “I’m not in the Labour party because I’m a believer of the Labour party as some supreme body or something God-given or anything like that,” he told a small audience in 2012. “It’s a tactic. It’s as simple as that. If it’s no longer a useful vehicle, move on.” 

Two feather-spitting former frontbenchers called for McDonnell’s resignation when these comments emerged in March, saying they revealed his Trotskyist tendencies. "The context (a hard-left gathering) and the company (which included Gerry Downing, expelled from Labour for his comments on 9/11) didn’t make for great publicity, no," a Leader’s Office staffer privately confesses. 

But McDonnell is right: There is nothing necessary, natural or divinely ordained about Labour’s existence lest it can get things done. Which is why the parliamentary Labour party cannot botch its next attempt at power. 

In the wake of Corbyn’s re-election, Labour MPs face a fork-in-the-road: fight this civil war until its bitter end - play the long game, wait until Labour loses the next general election and challenge Corbyn again - or start afresh. 

It is a bleak, binary choice, akin to a doctor delivering test results and declaring the illness is terminal as feared: the patient can go down fighting and die a slow death, notwithstanding a medical miracle, or instead take part in a pioneering new drug trial. This carries the risk of dying immediately but promises the possibility of life as well. Both options are fraught with danger.

The problem with the first option is that moderates have all but lost the party already. A poll reveals Corbyn won 85 per cent - 15 per cent among members who joined after he became party leader and lost 37 per cent - 63 per cent among those who were members of the party before the last general election. The result: victory by 119,000 votes. 

Corbyn has already announced he wants to give these foot soldiers far greater firepower and told Andrew Marr he had asked the NEC to draft plans for increasing the membership and including it in “all aspects of party decision making”. Labour is transitioning apace into a social movement: free of formal hierarchy and ambivalent about parliamentary power. 

So why wait until 2020? There is every chance that MPs won’t any longer have the power to challenge to Corbyn within four years’ time. If Momentum has its way with reselection and shadow cabinet elections, leading rebels may not be around to begin with. 

Even if MPs mount another leadership challenge, few believe organisations like Saving Labour or Labour First could put together a sizeable enough electorate to outgun Corbyn at the ballot box. He would be voted back in by a landslide. 

The alternative is for MPs to create a new centre-left force. The main plan under consideration is to join the Cooperative party, Labour’s sister party, and sit as a bloc of “double hatted” MPs, with their own policy agenda on Brexit and the economy. This new bloc would apply to the Speaker to become the official opposition. 

Plenty of MPs and members recoil at the idea of a semi-split like this because of the mixed message it would send to voters on the doorstep. "So you don’t have faith in Corbyn, but you’re a Co-op MP campaigning on behalf of his Labour?" Many believe a full-split would be worse. They fear being pitted against Corbyn-backed Labour candidates in local constituencies and splitting the left vote, opening the door to Ukip or the Conservatives in marginal seats. 

But if moderate MPs mean what they say when they warn of total electoral wipeout in 2020, risking a new centre-left grouping is intuitively worth it.  What do they have to lose? And how many more times can Labour’s moderates cry wolf - Labour "risks extinction", Sadiq Khan said yesterday - until voters call their bluff and tell them to quit complaining and fall in line behind their leader? 

While Corbyn’s polling remains disastrous, a Co-op/Labour party would boast a mandate of 9.3m people, a policy agenda in line with Britain’s political centre of gravity and a chance of becoming the official opposition: a risk worth taking in the face of electoral oblivion. 

A handful of battle-bruised MPs are talking about coming together. "Time to unite," a deflated Hilary Benn tweeted this weekend. There is a precedent for this: first past the post means the party has always been composed of uneasy coalitions of different groups - take the trade unionists, liberal cosmopolites and ethnic minorities of the New Labour years - and it is arguably no different now.  

Yet this is not about a coalition of diverse interests. It is about two parties within a party, each of which believes Labour is their rightful inheritance. Of the two, moderates are least likely to gain anything by engaging in an all out war. It is time they took a leaf out of McDonnell’s book and accepted it is time, regrettably, "to move on". 

Gabriel Pogrund is a journalist at The Sunday Times and a Google News Fellow 2016.