Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. A Greek crisis is coming to America (Financial Times)

Niall Ferguson writes that Greece's troubles are indicative of the wider fiscal crisis in the western world. The difficulty will soon spread to Britain and, most dangerously, to the US.

2. Greek tragedy won't end in the euro's death (Times)

Elsewhere, Anatole Kaletsky says that all the conditions are in place for an EU bailout of Greece, but southern Europe's economies are likely to suffer for years.

3. The tide has turned, and the Tories are swimming against it (Independent)

Steve Richards predicts that a Conservative government will struggle to reverse the shift away from market economics.

4. One in five could actually be a winning endorsement (Guardian)

John Harris warns that at the next election, with turnout falling below 50 per cent, a party with the support of less than 20 per cent of the electorate is likely to take office.

5. To win, Cameron must convince the public to trust politicians again (Daily Telegraph)

To earn trust in the post-expenses age, David Cameron must avoid headline-grabbing gimmicks, says Benedict Brogan.

6. The sight of Ukraine's lumpen victor should stir the EU's own into action (Guardian)

Timothy Garton Ash argues that the election of Viktor Yanukovich as Ukraine's president may show that the country is becoming a serious democracy.

7. Where war goes, propaganda follows (Independent)

Government manipulation of the news has become easier since insurgents started targeting journalists, writes Patrick Cockburn.

8. We must not ignore human rights in Iran (Financial Times)

The west should focus on challenging Iran's human rights record rather than imposing new sanctions, argues Trita Parsi.

9. Amnesty shouldn't support men like Moazzam Begg (Independent)

Joan Smith says that Amnesty International must not allow its name to be used to lend legitimacy to those who oppose human rights.

10. The army cannot carry its wounded for ever (Times)

Doug Beattie writes that the British army can no longer be expected to care for seriously injured troops. We must do more to prepare soldiers for civilian life.

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Battle of the banners: how the disputes of football took to the skies

Across the top of the screen floated a banner, pulled by a little aeroplane: IN ARSENE WE TRUST.

Last weekend, during the West Brom-Arsenal game, I began to think my hearing was playing up again. I’ve been given hearing aids but don’t wear them. No, not vanity, it’s just a faff to put the things in and the quality of my life, which is excellent, is not being impaired. Anyway, as I live on my own, if the sound on the telly is too low, I put it up. No one knows or cares.

When I’m out entertaining lady friends at my local bistro, I always get a quiet table in the corner and sit facing them, all rapt attention, totally focused on them, so they think. It’s really just to help my hearing.

On the TV screen, I suddenly heard an aeroplane, which was weird, as there was no sign of it, but then hearing problems are weird. Children talking sounds deafening. Some consonants disappear. Could it be a helicopter on the Heath, taking some injured person to the Royal Free? At our Lakeland house, I often heard helicopters: the mountain rescue team, picking up someone who had collapsed on Grasmoor. So I do know what they sound like. But this sounded like Biggles.

Then across the top of the screen floated a banner, pulled by a little aeroplane: IN ARSENE WE TRUST. The score at the time was 1-1, Arsenal having just equalised. They eventually got beaten 3-1. Oh, the shame and irony.

Apparently, earlier in the game, according to newspaper reports the next day, there had been an anti-Wenger aeroplane banner: NO CONTRACT, WENGER OUT. I didn’t see it – or Sky TV didn’t show it.

Where do the fans or supporter groups get all the money? And how do they organise it? There is a theory that IN ARSENE WE TRUST was paid for by Arsène himself. Another, more amusing theory is that it was a group of Spurs supporters, desperate for Arsène to stay on at Arsenal and continue getting stuffed.

There have been a few similar aeroplane banners at football matches in recent years. There was one at Newcastle, when they were playing Sunderland, which read 5 IN A ROW 5UNDERLAND. Sunderland won, so it came true. Sent the Geordie fans potty.

Everton fans flew one in 2015 which read KENWRIGHT & CO TIME TO GO. He is still chairman, so it didn’t work.

Millwall fans did an awfully complicated one in 2011 at Wigan, during the Wigan-West Ham game, which resulted in West Ham going down. They hired a plane to fly overhead with the banner AVRAM GRANT – MILLWALL LEGEND. Now you have to know that Grant was the West Ham manager and Millwall are their rivals. And that they couldn’t fly it at West Ham itself, which could have caused most fury to West Ham fans. There’s a no-fly zone in London, which stops rival fans hiring planes to take the piss out of Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham. The Millwall supporters who organised it later revealed that it had only cost them £650. Quite cheap, for a good laugh.

There’s presumably some light aeroplane firm that specialises in flying banners over football grounds.

I do remember a few years ago, at White Hart Lane and Highbury, walking to the grounds and looking out for blimps flying overhead – small, balloon-like airships mainly used for promotional purposes, such as Goodyear tyres or Sky’s aerial camera. The results were pretty useless, showing little. I haven’t seen any recently, so presumably blimps aren’t allowed over central London either.

I am surprised drones have not been used, illegally, of course, to display obscene messages during games. They could drag a few pithy words while on the way to drop drugs at Pentonville Prison.

The history of aeroplane advertising goes back a long way. Before the Second World War, Littlewoods and Vernons football pools were fighting it out for dominance, just as the online betting firms are doing today. In 1935, Littlewoods sent planes over London pulling banners that proclaimed LITTLEWOODS ABOVE ALL. Jolly witty, huh. 

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 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution