Lord Levy's 'persecution'

Millions have been spent on chasing e-mails ... but then Lord Levy like Dame Shirley Porter before h

Never underestimate the pressures on a politician's stomach, the higher the greasy pole you climb the higher the calorific content of the diners you are invited to.

So it was that I attended the Annual Dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews at the Radisson Portman Hotel.

The great and the good of British Jewry had assembled to hear the next prime minister, Gordon Brown, tell them what a wonderful community they were, how he appreciated their hard work, would fight anti-Semitism and was a life-long friend of Israel. In fact exactly the same things David Cameron told them at last years dinner and the Chief Rabbi duly lead the standing ovation.

There is something incredibly charismatic about Sir Jonathan Sachs, never mind his first rate preaching and common sense contributions to "Thought for the Day" that makes me as a Christian lament the abject failure of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, with his unkempt beard and general wishy-washiness, to provide any spiritual leadership to our Country.

Oh and never underestimate the genuine affection that Lord Levy is held in by the Jewish community.

He sat at the top table with an air of nobility that has nothing to do with his title. Indeed if the organs of the state continue with their current persecution I suspect he will acquire sainthood in the not to distant future.

It seems to me a strange use of police resources that whilst a gang of armed robbers is holding up members of the Orthodox Jewish community in their North London homes, millions have been spent chasing e-mails and other political tittle-tattle: but then Lord Levy like Dame Shirley Porter before him is Jewish.

Whilst the chancellor and his wife stayed to the end of the dinner, the Israeli Ambassador Zvi Hefetz could not get away early enough. To the general relief of British Jewry he is soon returning to Israel with his poor grasp of English, having failed to present Israel's case last summer during the Lebanon war, reluctant as he was to break his holiday in Italy.

A few days later I was in Israel myself as the official report into the failures of the government and armed forces in last summer's Lebanon War was published.

At yet another dinner I sat next to the French wife of the British Ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips (should British Ambassadors be allowed foreign wives they used not to be allowed foreign cars) and the Ambassador gave Prime Minister Olmert two months but seemed genuinely terrified at the prospect of the return of Benjamin Netanyahu. Having been on the streets of Tel Aviv on the day of the "Olmert must go" rally I can assure the Foreign Office Netanyahu will be back.

Most politicians in Israel are retired military officers, indeed even the Councillor in charge of parking in Tel Aviv is an ex-Major General but Olmert is not: hence a certain prejudice against him.

There is something to be said for the no-nonsense approach of military figures who transfer into politics. If I were Gordon Brown I would be arranging dinner with the chiefs of staff at the Ministry of Defence very soon!

Brian Coleman was first elected to the London Assembly in June 2000. Widely outspoken he is best known for his groundbreaking policy of removing traffic calming measures
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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

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 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times