Never be satisfied

The Labour candidate in Sedgefield stresses his local credentials and says despite what he feels are

It’s been a privilege to stand for Parliament in my home area. I’ve lost count of the people who’ve told me they remember me from school, or knew my dad from the mines, or who have a shared friend.

The mining tradition is still strong here, and gives us a real sense of community. My father was a miner at Fishburn colliery, and speaking at the unfurling of the new banner for the next door Deaf Hill pit, and marching into the Durham Miner’s Gala alongside miners from nearby Trimdon Grange are memories that will stay with me forever

People who don’t know the area might still associate us only with coal mining, but Sedgefield constituency is a diverse collection of former pit villages, market towns, and the new town, Newton Aycliffe.

I’m proud of what Labour’s achieved here over the last ten years, with new hospitals ringing the constituency, rebuilt schools and a thousand more businesses, but being a reformer and progressive means never, ever, being satisfied with what you’ve got. So I’ve been campaigning on the future- a regenerated town centre for Newton Aycliffe, more opportunities for our young people, and dealing with crime and the fear of crime that haunt so many of our communities.

The campaign itself has been hard fought but generally good natured. The Tory candidate told the local paper that Margaret Thatcher was his inspiration. I’m not sure that’s the right strategy to win votes in Sedgefield!

I’ve been unimpressed by the Lib Dems. Their “local” candidate actually lives, works and votes in Newcastle, and they’ve run the kind of campaign that’s designed to hide what they really stand for, with scare story after scare story. It’s pretty desperate stuff, and not convincing many voters.

I’m looking forward to the election night, and if the people of Sedgefield put their trust in me, I’ll start work right away to deliver investment, jobs and the strong public services our community needs.

Photo by Lisa Knight

Labour candidate Phil Wilson is 48 years of age and has lived in the Sedgefield constituency all his life. His father worked down Fishburn colliery before closure.
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Pity the Premier League – so much money can get you into all sorts of bother

You’ve got to feel sorry for our top teams. It's hard work, maintaining their brand.

I had lunch with an old girlfriend last week. Not old, exactly, just a young woman of 58, and not a girlfriend as such – though I have loads of female friends; just someone I knew as a girl on our estate in Cumbria when she was growing up and I was friendly with her family.

She was one of many kind, caring people from my past who wrote to me after my wife died in February, inviting me to lunch, cheer up the poor old soul. Which I’ve not been. So frightfully busy.

I never got round to lunch till last week.

She succeeded in her own career, became pretty well known, but not as well off financially as her husband, who is some sort of City whizz.

I visited her large house in the best part of Mayfair, and, over lunch, heard about their big estate in the West Country and their pile in Majorca, finding it hard to take my mind back to the weedy, runny-nosed little girl I knew when she was ten.

Their three homes employ 25 staff in total. Which means there are often some sort of staff problems.

How awful, I do feel sorry for you, must be terrible. It’s not easy having money, I said, managing somehow to keep back the fake tears.

Afterwards, I thought about our richest football teams – Man City, Man United and Chelsea. It’s not easy being rich like them, either.

In football, there are three reasons you have to spend the money. First of all, because you can. You have untold wealth, so you gobble up possessions regardless of the cost, and regardless of the fact that, as at Man United, you already have six other superstars playing in roughly the same position. You pay over the odds, as with Pogba, who is the most expensive player in the world, even though any halfwit knows that Messi and Ronaldo are infinitely more valuable. It leads to endless stresses and strains and poor old Wayne sitting on the bench.

Obviously, you are hoping to make the team better, and at the same time have the luxury of a whole top-class team sitting waiting on the bench, who would be desired by every other club in Europe. But the second reason you spend so wildly is the desire to stop your rivals buying the same players. It’s a spoiler tactic.

Third, there’s a very modern and stressful element to being rich in football, and that’s the need to feed the brand. Real Madrid began it ten years or so ago with their annual purchase of a galáctico. You have to refresh the team with a star name regularly, whatever the cost, if you want to keep the fans happy and sell even more shirts round the world each year.

You also need to attract PROUD SUPPLIERS OF LAV PAPER TO MAN CITY or OFFICIAL PROVIDER OF BABY BOTTLES TO MAN UNITED or PARTNERS WITH CHELSEA IN SUGARY DRINK. These suppliers pay a fortune to have their product associated with a famous Premier League club – and the club knows that, to keep up the interest, they must have yet another exciting £100m star lined up for each new season.

So, you can see what strains and stresses having mega money gets them into, trying to balance all these needs and desires. The manager will get the blame in the end when things start to go badly on the pitch, despite having had to accommodate some players he probably never craved. If you’re rich in football, or in most other walks in life, you have to show it, have all the required possessions, otherwise what’s the point of being rich?

One reason why Leicester did so well last season was that they had no money. This forced them to bond and work hard, make do with cheapo players, none of them rubbish, but none the sort of galáctico a super-Prem club would bother with.

Leicester won’t repeat that trick this year. It was a one-off. On the whole, the £100m player is better than the £10m player. The rich clubs will always come good. But having an enormous staff, at any level, is all such a worry for the rich. You have to feel sorry . . .

Hunter Davies’s “The Beatles Book” is published by Ebury

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 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories