White Hart Lane is going to close for refurbishment. Photo: Getty
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The season after next, Spurs will go a-wandering

Where will the fans park then?

I was told to speak to nobody, even if spoken to – just put the blank envelope through the letter box, make sure it contains the money, with no other details, then return at once.

Roger and out, I muttered, creeping up quietly to the front door of the little terraced house on the edge of the council estate. Mission accomplished, the others got out of the car, leaving it there in the front drive, and we all made a dash for White Hart Lane.

Actually his name is John but I suppose I should not even reveal that, as the authorities might get on to him, or at least on to her, the tenant of the house, and ask her why she is not paying tax on the £10 notes that regularly get shoved through her letter box on match days.

When I go with John to Spurs in his car, I always insist on paying the parking. It is such a huge benefit, being dropped so near the ground, not having to drive round for hours or negotiate public transport, which in Tottenham is hellish.

All around Spurs and every major club in the UK, there are locals making loads of cash by allowing parking in their front drive. Schools rent out their playgrounds, as do pubs, garages, anywhere where cars can be left for two hours on match days. Paying £10 is now a bargain. In more expensive areas (around Arsenal, for instance), they charge £15.

I don’t think Doris – not her real name, I’m not daft, someone might track her down and offer her more – is fully aware of what is going to happen soon to her finances. The season after next, the club has revealed, it will have to leave White Hart Lane for a whole season while its new stadium gets built. Spurs will then be homeless, relying on the co-operation of Wembley, or the Olympic Stadium, or, if they both say up your bum, it could well be Milton Keynes, anywhere they can play their “home” games.

As a devoted follower of football history, I find it rather romantic. This is how it all began. Our first and for many years the best-known and successful club in the land was the Wanderers, founded in 1859. They won the first FA Cup final in 1872 and five times in all. Their star players included Charles Alcock, who was secretary of the FA, and Lord Kinnaird, later FA president. They were an amateur team, all public school boys – and homeless, never having their own ground. Hence their name.

I have always assumed that Bolton Wanderers, founded 1874, and Wolverhampton Wanderers, first formed 1877, and perhaps all the other Wanderers, took their name from the first, or because at one time they, too, were homeless. Same with clubs called Rovers.

It would be a nice touch if Spurs, for their season on the road, added the name Wanderers, without, of course, giving up Hotspur, which is a historic name, going back to Shakespeare’s Harry Hotspur, the Dukes of Northumberland and Northumberland Park, where Spurs first played, early doors.

Doris will not be the only one to suffer. Stalls selling horrible, smelly burgers will be out of pocket, along with the souvenir sellers, club shops, stewards, security and all those hospitality jobsworths. Presumably they will still produce a Spurs programme, regardless of the venue, but a thousand or so match day jobs and livelihoods will be in danger.

As for the fans, it costs a fortune as it is to turn up at White Hart Lane. I saw a report the other day that said the average supporter of a Premier team pays £3,550 a year – that includes £760 on parking, plus food, drink, programme and ticket. If we then have to trail another 20 miles across London, or find out if Milton Keynes really does exist, the cost is going to be enormous.

I am hoping that during their year on the road Spurs might decide to play on Hampstead Heath. Much nearer than all the other suggestions. There is an excellent pitch inside the running track. And I’ll be able to rent out my garage . . .

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 01 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The Islam issue

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Want to beat child poverty? End the freeze on working-age benefits

Freezing working-age benefits at a time of rising prices is both economically and morally unsound. 

We serve in politics to change lives. Yet for too long, many people and parts of Britain have felt ignored. Our response to Brexit must respond to their concerns and match their aspirations. By doing so, we can unite the country and build a fairer Britain.

Our future success as a country depends on making the most of all our talents. So we should begin with a simple goal – that child poverty must not be a feature of our country’s future.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that relative child poverty will see the biggest increase in a generation in this Parliament. That is why it is so troubling that poverty has almost disappeared from the political agenda under David Cameron, and now Theresa May.

The last Labour Government’s record reminds us what can be achieved. Labour delivered the biggest improvement of any EU nation in lifting one million children out of poverty, transforming so many lives. Child poverty should scar our conscience as much as it does our children’s futures. So we have a duty to this generation to make progress once again.

In my Barnsley constituency, we have led a campaign bringing together Labour party members, community groups, and the local Labour Council to take action. My constituency party recently published its second child poverty report, which included contributions from across our community on addressing this challenge.

Ideas ranged from new requirements on developments for affordable housing, to expanding childcare, and the great example set by retired teachers lending their expertise to tutor local students. When more than 200 children in my constituency fall behind in language skills before they even start school, that local effort must be supported at the national level.

In order to build a consensus around renewed action, I will be introducing a private member’s bill in Parliament. It will set a new child poverty target, with requirements to regularly measure progress and report against the impact of policy choices.

I hope to work on a cross-party basis to share expertise and build pressure for action. In response, I hope that the Government will make this a priority in order to meet the Prime Minister’s commitment to make Britain a country that works for everyone.

The Autumn Statement in two months’ time is an opportunity to signal a new approach. Planned changes to tax and benefits over the next four years will take more than one pound in every ten pounds from the pockets of the poorest families. That is divisive and short-sighted, particularly with prices at the tills expected to rise.

Therefore the Chancellor should make a clear commitment to those who have been left behind by ending the freeze on working-age benefits. That would not only be morally right, but also sound economics.

It is estimated that one pound in every five pounds of public spending is associated with poverty. As well as redirecting public spending, poverty worsens the key economic challenges we face. It lowers productivity and limits spending power, which undermine the strong economy we need for the future.

Yet the human cost of child poverty is the greatest of all. When a Sure Start children’s centre is lost, it closes a door on opportunity. That is penny wise but pound foolish and it must end now.

The smarter approach is to recognise that a child’s earliest years are critical to their future life chances. The weight of expert opinion in favour of early intervention is overwhelming. So that must be our priority, because it is a smart investment for the future and it will change lives today.

This is the cause of our times. To end child poverty so that no-one is locked out of the opportunity for a better future. To stand in the way of a Government that seeks to pass by on the other side. Then to be in position to replace the Tories at the next election.

By doing so, we can answer that demand for change from people across our country. And we can provide security, opportunity, and hope to those who need it most.

That is how we can begin to build a fairer Britain.
 
 

Dan Jarvis is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central and a former Major in the Parachute Regiment.