Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers

1. Those looking for a hidden scandal will be disappointed (Independent)

The lessons to be learned from the Iraq war have nothing to do with simplistic assertions that Tony Blair is a liar and a war criminal, argues Steve Richards.

2. Britain can relax on its bed of nitroglycerine (Times)

Anatole Kaletsky says the threat to the economy from state borrowing is not remotely as serious as Pimco and other bond investors suggest. Government debt remains moderate by both historic and international standards.

3. How the charity of a peer's wife will propel Cameron to power (Daily Telegraph)

Benedict Brogan on the £20,000 donation from Lord Ashcroft's wife to David Cameron that paved the way for a remarkable political alliance between the Tory leader and the billionaire.

4. We Googlistas want a global debate on information freedom. Why are others so coy? (Guardian)

Timothy Garton Ash questions why authoritarian rulers are so reluctant to have an open debate over internet censorship. If they think their system is better, why not make the case for it?

5. Throw open our doors to Haitians (Independent)

Ian Birrell argues that offering a one-off "disaster asylum" would do far more to help Haiti than pouring in aid.

6. Only pressure to withdraw can stop this blood price (Guardian)

Seumas Milne says that few now buy the fiction that the Afghan war is preventing, rather than fuelling, terror attacks elsewhere. But greater pressure is needed to end the occupation.

7. China will not be the world's deputy sheriff (Financial Times)

David Pilling says that Beijing still prefers to keep a low profile and get on with the hard slog of building an industrial economy.

8. We need a dugout canoe to navigate the net (Times)

Ben Macintyre says that the abundance of information on the internet is forcing us to change the way we think.

9. Labour's greatest legacy? We're all Conservatives now (Guardian)

Zoe Williams says that too many accepted Labour's fabled meritocratic society at the expense of equality.

10. To win the war, empower the Afghan economy (Financial Times)

Zalmay Khalilzad warns that a detailed strategy for the "civilian surge" in Afghanistan has yet to emerge. Encouraging Afghan businesses is the key to success.


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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