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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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.