I'm a quitter not a fighter

Carol Thatcher, Mormons and other stories...

Week in, week out since we relaunched newstatesman.com a couple of guys from the brilliant journalism school at Cardiff (where I went) have been doing a round-up of political blogs and it’s more than time I mentioned them in despatches. Owen Walker and Adam Haigh write on alternate weeks and are doing a first class job.

Anyway have a read of their entertaining, pithy summaries. If nothing else it’ll save you having to browse some of the more irritating offers out there in the blogosphere.

I know I keep banging on about our Faith Column but it really is a great feature of the website. This past week the fascinating insights of druid Damh. Next week Kathy Van Buskirk, from the Cherokee Nation talks about her religion. Coming up we’ve got another atheist, a Catholic and a Navajo.

Interestingly we’ve tried quite hard to get Mormons to blog but they don’t do it. A spokeswoman from the Mormon Church said all the information you could possibly want is on the Latter Day Saints (LDS) official website (notice I didn’t link). They don’t like people commenting, which is why they don’t like blogging…

Inspite of that we did find a young American woman to write about her conversion to the LDS from being a Southern Baptist but she mentioned it to her Mormon flatmates, they told her church and she got instructed not to proceed! Scary stuff. Almost Mandelsonian in its creepiness! Personally I couldn’t belong to an organisation that controlling. I’m a quitter not a fighter.

I was watching some TV the other night and had the appalling misfortune to come across Carol Thatcher. Now there’s no secret that nepotism is alive and well in world of the media – but ‘Mummy’s War’? Notice the date stamp on this blog entry in case you think I’m making it up! Yes that’s the daughter of Margaret ‘two million unemployed’s a nice number’ Thatcher if there was any question in your mind…

Now I’ve no idea what you think about the sinking of the General Belgrano, but seeing Miss Thatcher in a room with some of the mothers of the men that died on that ship was not a TV highpoint. “It was a war, we shot at you, you shot at us,” she said with the tone of someone who can’t understand the dreadful fuss.

The mothers had apparently misinterpreted the point of the meeting, erroneously thinking they might get some message from Mrs Thatcher – whom they claimed was a war criminal. Why set up a conversation like that? Well I suppose it gives the former prime minister’s daughter something to do. I wonder what Channel 4 will follow it up with - Mark Thatcher goes on safari in Africa?

If you go to Argentina and you’re British, the Falklands War does come up from time to time in conversation. But people weren’t hostile, in my experience, they were just curious to find out your point of view. In fact quite a few people I met believed passionately in Argentina’s sovereignty over the islands but also conceded the point that if they hadn’t lost the war their rotten, murderous dictatorship might not have crumbled quite as fast.

Whatever you think about the war, commissioning Carol Thatcher to front that programme was in excreable taste.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

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 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism