Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's newspapers.

1. Putin's veto sets Russia apart (Guardian)

Ignore Russia's public relations machine, says David Hearst: Putin has misread the turmoil in Syria as much as he has the protests at home.

2. It's time to support the opposition in the Syrian civil war (Financial Times)

Thanks to Russia and China, there is no guarantee Syria can avoid a bloody fate, write Malcolm Rifkind and Shashank Joshi.

3. Moral Blindness (Times) (£)

Russia and China acted for self-serving motives in vetoing the Security Council's condemnation of the bloodshed in Syria, says this leading article.

4. Oxford should refuse the Iron Lady this honour (Independent)

Baroness Thatcher's ideas should be freely taught, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, but a centre bearing her name would be a sign of undisputed greatness.

5. How Britain's migrants sewed the fabric of the nation (Guardian)

History shows it's hard to pick out which migrants will be good for the UK, says Robert Winder. It is risky for the state to try.

6. Britain won't create a Facebook until we learn to praise success (Daily Telegraph)

Unemployment is falling in the US, where wealth-creators are applauded, rather than denounced, writes Boris Johnson.

7. This 11-year exercise in self-delusion must end (Times) (£)

Our intervention in Afghanistan has been disastrous. Let's make the final months count, says Paddy Ashdown.

8. The how-to guide to toppling tyrants (Financial Times)

George B. N. Ayittey, an expert in the nature and flaws of tyranny, explains why undermining dictators is a science that requires time and thought.

9. What Whitehall could learn from Washington (Independent)

This leading article argues that ministers should introduce fresh blood into a service whose signal defect remains its institutional aversion to change.

10. The Iron Professor has one year to save Italy (Times) (£)

Mario Monti is trying to shock his country out of decline, says Bill Emmott -- but will he survive strikes and recession?

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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