Five of the Best

The top five political articles from today's papers and the web

Gordon Brown is planning to set out a list of specific spending cuts before the general election in an attempt to reassure voters that Labour can reduce the deficit, reports the Independent's political editor, Andrew Grice:

Mr Brown will deny he is redrawing his favourite "dividing line" -- contrasting "Labour investment versus Tory cuts". However, he has come under pressure from Cabinet ministers, led by the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, to change his language on public spending amid fears that Labour could lose the argument.

In his Times column David Aaronovitch argues that the US government was justly furious about the release of the Lockerbie bomber and has some choice words for the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill:

The utterly unrepentant al-Megrahi, according to Mr MacAskill, who had by now switched to high sanctimony, was facing a "sentence imposed by another power . . . He is going to die." . . . So these are the new "laws and values of Scotland" -- if you're going to snuff it within a reasonably short time (let's say months, or a year or so) you are thought to have been transferred into the custody of God and you get let out. How could one not agree with that?

The Daily Telegraph reveals the five books that Barack Obama plans to take on holiday to Martha's Vineyard:

At the serious end are Hot, Flat And Crowded - Why We Need A Green Revolution And How It Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman and John Adams, a biography of the second US president by David McCullough. McCullough is a particularly tactful choice as he lives down the road from where the Obamas are staying.

Over at Comment is Free Dominique Moisi argues that only Franco-German leadership can revive the European Union:

As long as each remains convinced that no alternative to co-operation exists within the EU, and that European co-operation remains a priority for both, it should not be overly difficult to restore their leadership . . . With the return of France to integrated military structure, the two countries are on the same "Atlantic" wavelength for the first time since 1966.

The Independent's Mary Dejevsky explores why the US tolerates far higher levels of inequality than Europe:

Some put the divergence down to the ideological rigidity that led Puritans and others to flee to America in the first place; others to the ruthless struggle for survival that marked the early settlement years and the conquest of the West. Still others see it as the price the US pays for its material success.

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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