Walthamstow's finest: Harry Kane for Spurs. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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All the Spurs players are heroes but Harry is different: he’s a local hero

What does it mean to sign a local lad?

Gosh, it was so exciting, I felt giddy – Spurs stuffing Chelsea 5-3, Harry for England and St George. There are those alive who will remember for ever this St Crispin’s Day, I mean New Year’s Day, here we go, here we go, England must call soon, and then Real Madrid and then Mars. No wonder so many women have been sending urgent messages to young Harry: “Will you marry me, you absolutely bloody fuckin’ marvel!”

The story, in simple terms, is that Harry Edward Kane, aged 21, having been at Spurs almost all his life and been loaned out loads of times, just when it looked as if he would never ever make it at Spurs, has suddenly come good – scoring six goals in his previous six games, bagging two against Chelsea and winning a penalty.

He’s not particularly brilliant at any one thing – not all that fast, not all that tricky, average at dead balls – just good at all aspects and, in recent months, getting better at all of them, too. Hence he has tremendous confidence and works ever so hard, now scoring for fun, come on, my son.

But the really unusual thing about Harry is summed up by the chant that the Spurs crowd now shouts: “HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN, HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN, HARRY KANE, HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN.”

The home crowd took to him early in the season, while the manager was still clearly in two minds about him, for the simple reason that he is a local lad, born in Walthamstow, and is a trier. Being called Harry also helps – always a popular name, from ’Arry Redknapp to Prince Harry, easy to shout, easy to spell.

He does look English, with that fair hair neatly parted, square if rather lopsided jaw, nothing flash or showy, but in fact he is not totally English – he could have played for the Republic of Ireland as his dad was born in Galway. He chose England, and did well with the under-21s.

Is that Harry chant they now sing racist in any way – picking out for applause someone on the basis that he’s one of us (ie, not a bleedin’ foreigner)? Could Ukip take it up?

Like all Prem teams these days, Spurs is foreign-dominated and has a foreign manager. Perhaps the reason the Argentinian Pochettino was so slow to promote him was that when he arrived he didn’t recognise Harry’s east London accent, assuming he was just another foreigner, not one of those long-suffering locals out there in the crowd, desperate after all these years to have a local hero. It was definitely thanks to the crowd support that the cult and progress of Harry took off.

It is unusual for a local lad, let alone an English lad, to come all the way through the ranks and make it in the Prem. We footer fans of a certain age go on all the time about the West Ham FA Cup-winning team back in 1975 – the last all-English team to win the Cup, most of them from London or Essex – or the Celtic team that won the European Cup in Lisbon in 1967, totally comprised of players born in the Celtic dressing room, sorry, within the sound of Bow Bells, sorry again, wrong city, anyway they were all local lads, born within ten miles of Celtic Park. Incredible. Oh, those were the days, when every player was one of our own.

Which is, in fact, bollocks, fantasy and romance. That idyllic state of affairs has rarely ever existed, not since English professional football began in 1885. Clubs were quickly scouting all over the land, bribing players with sovereigns in their boots to leave their home team. In those days foreigners usually meant Scotsmen. Now they scout the whole world, not just the mines of Lanarkshire.

I am always asking Spurs fans how many players in the Spurs 1901 Cup-winning team came from London and the Home Counties. Go on, guess. The answer is none. Five were Scottish, two Welsh, one Irish, and the three English players came from Cumberland, the Potteries and Grantham, the nearest place to London.

So, we do have to treasure Harry while we can. Coming from Walthamstow! That’s almost like being born in White Hart Lane. 

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 08 January 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Churchill Myth

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To beat the Trump hype, we need a return to old-fashioned political virtues

If we want to resist the Trumpification of politics, what we need is restraint, duty and incorruptibility.

After the 1992 US presidential election, Alistair Cooke’s celebrated BBC radio series Letter from America struck a poignant note. Cooke described Bill Clinton’s worn jeans and checked wool shirt, contrasting them with George H W Bush’s buttoned-up Wasp manners and buttoned-down Ivy League shirts. Clinton’s style, Cooke argued, was a rebuke to a tired social and political establishment. His casualness was the new America.

Cooke, then 83, was honest enough to admit unease about this departure from the old, patrician modes and manners. “Along with the passing of George Bush,” he said, “we shall see, I fear, the passing of the blue blazer.” Cooke seemed right at the time. But don’t write off the blue blazer just yet. As ruling elites change, so does the appropriate counterpoint. To topple Bush’s stuffy golf club elites, Clinton picked up his saxophone, took off his tie and felt everyone’s pain. And now? The subtext of these turbulent months (the inevitable second question, prompted by “How do you beat Donald Trump?”) is: “What should ­tomorrow’s leaders, the leaders we crave, look and sound like?”

My conjecture is that, to beat Trump and his type – bling, shiny suits, dodgy deals – we should push towards centre stage an underestimated set of political virtues: restraint, duty and incorruptibility. If it weren’t for the gender associations, I would be tempted to call this quality gentlemanliness. Aside from personal virtue – signally lacking in the Clinton camp – how might decency inform public debate as it comes under attack from maverick showmen trained in the media circus? How can the middle ground regain its confidence?

First, level with the public. Maybe liberalism hasn’t failed so much as its messaging has failed. Instead of smashing the electorate over the head with the idea that everything is just great, make the case that not everything can be for the best in all possible worlds. As populists reach for empty slogans, a new space has opened up. Accept and exploit those asymmetries: more people are ready to hear uncomfortable truths than politicians imagine.

Kingsley Amis once argued that a writer’s voice should stay close to his speaking voice: not the same, but close. Adapting that idea, if politicians stayed closer in public debate to the truths that they articulate in casual conversation – some things are impossible; almost every policy creates a losing as well as a winning side; there really isn’t any money – they would be surprised how many people are ready to hear that not all problems can be evaporated into thin air. Stray too far from awkward truths and elections become about simple lies v tricksy lies.

Second, centrists do more harm than good when they rush to categorise dissenting opinion as not only wrong, but unacceptable. “Any suggestion that liberal values are not humanly universal,” as John Gray wrote in a recent NS essay, “will provoke spasms of righteous indignation.” Instead, we need to be more tolerant in our tolerance.

Third, stop pretending that everything desirable can be shoehorned into the “progressive” agenda. “I really care passionately about persevering with the common-sense middle ground and doing it quite well” is a problematic political sales pitch, but not for the reasons that are usually given. The gravest difficulty may come at the beginning, with the faux passion, rather than with the substance – public service and competence – underneath.

It is revealing that those closest to David Cameron expended so much energy trying to persuade us that he was not an updated version of Harold Macmillan. That is why the gay marriage reforms, though admirable, were accorded too much significance. Ah, Cameron was a natural crusader! But he paid a price for dressing up as a “radical” when greater challenges arrived. It weakened some of his strongest cards – calmness, perspective, proportion – just as politics was coarsening. Aren’t Tories supposed to understand the virtues of yesterday? In other words, as an electoral strategy to beat Trump (or Nigel Farage), I’d put up a Macmillan type over a Clinton type every time.

Fourth, cut ties with “messaging experts”. It’s a fraud. They teach that everything must be asserted with powerful conviction. Yet ideas unworthy of powerful conviction are best left shorn of them. The electorate has endured a communications version of crying wolf. As a result of the messaging game, when something genuinely important crops up, it sounds simply like the same old shtick.

Fifth, ditch the bogus quantification. Few things signal untrustworthiness more reliably than fake precision. Something shifted in me when George Osborne argued that Brexit would leave households £4,300 worse off. What, no decimal point? Voters understand uncertainty better than politicians imagine. Precise quantification used to sound professional. Now it sounds suspicious.

Finally, think about tone. Conventional wisdom holds that the mainstream must fight the Trumpian revolution on its own terms: a simple solution, memorably expressed, a guiding vision for the country or the world. If anyone has a good one to hand, I’m all for it. But what if – after decades of ­sophisticated argument and counterargument, as politics has solved the easy problems while parking the difficult or insoluble ones – we have reached a state of such evolved equilibrium that no such easy answer can exist?

Pretending otherwise is no longer a point of difference. It takes you towards the lowest common denominator. As Trump has shown, that is well-occupied territory. Perhaps wooing the angry mob is not the solution. Instead, the admirable and successful politician of the future will have to win back the support of moderate, sensible but disillusioned voters. 

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage