CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. There's a good idea in Cameron's "big society" screaming to get out (Guardian)

Jonathan Freedland argues that Labour must seize this flawed initiative from the Tories, reclaim its Labour origins and then set about improving it.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. The next Labour leader could be prime minister within a year (Daily Telegraph)

Whoever wins the leadership battle will present a real challenge to the coalition, Simon Heffer points out. A leader with box-office appeal could exploit the stumbling block of the government's planned constitutional reforms.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. Do us a favour. Let us wear what we like (Times)

Women put up with restrictions such as the burqa because they find it liberating, says Daniel Finkelstein. Illiberalism disguised as liberalism is more frightening than the burqa.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Dictators around the world must feel vindicated by Parliament Square eviction (Independent)

It is healthy that the powerful be confronted with the victims of their failed policies as they were in Democracy Village, argues Johann Hari. Now citizens cannot pressure their government for justice in the same way.

5. Western policy in Afghanistan is at a crossroads (Financial Times)

It is time to decide which course to take in Afghanistan: change things for good, or get out. Greg Mills runs through the options.

6. Taliban put to the test (Guardian)

In Kabul, reconciliation is on the agenda, says Richard Barrett, co-ordinator of the United Nations al-Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team for Afghanistan. A political deal is doable -- and so it could be time to talk.

7. Death by appointment degrades the disabled (Times)

Ilora Finlay mounts an argument against legalising assisted suicide. In a country celebrated for its care, it would be heartless to make the sick think they should opt for death.

8. Is there room for art in the big society? (Independent)

There isn't much philanthropy in Britain, says Christina Patterson. Without consistent state funding at a realistic level, the arts -- the most unequivocal success story of the past 13 years -- will be destroyed.

9. Ignore this howl of protest -- the police are ripe for cuts (Guardian)

Spending has doubled, and yet the number of officers on the beat has fallen. Simon Jenkins suggests that something is seriously awry.

10. A sunlit Keynesian paradise awaits our grandchildren (Financial Times)

Tim Harford looks back at Keynes's essay "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren", which looked at what would happen when the Great Depression was over. We must remember to come back to this long-run forecast when the current crisis ends.

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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