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The greatest team you've ever seen

Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column.

God, they are playing well, the greatest team the world has ever seen. Gareth Bale has just done a good cross, he is just so fab, let’s hope we can keep him, but dopey Dempsey was nowhere, did good for Fulham, what a waste of money. Oh my God, Gareth has only put a free kick straight in the net!!!! Hardly one minute gone and we are one goal up, come on youuuuu Spuuuurs, we’re gonna win the league, Europe, everyfink.

I am jumping up and down so much, I’ve dropped my Thermos flask, sorry darling. Lunchtime kick-offs are a bugger – should you stuff your face before or after or during? I plump for all three. Eating for joy, oh yes.

Gareth must be worth £50m now. Make it £100m. It’s one-way traffic, Newcastle still not had a kick and it’s 20 minutes gone, oh, that was a let off, Caulker you plonker, why did you let him head it? Go on, Gareth, hmm, where is he? Not seen him for five minutes but young Holtby looks good, OK he’s skied the ball three time over the bar, but he’s only young and German and weedy.

Oh fuckin’ hell, how did that happen, Newcastle have scored. It’s 1-1 and they are running through us. Gareth what are you doing, you Welsh poseur, forget about your quiff, run at them, not like that useless twat Dempsey.

Caulker, if you can play for England, so can our tortoise. What a shambles, their heads are down, we’re gonna get stuffed , what the hell do they do in training?

A V-B, get your finger out of your Portugese bum. When Jermaine got injured and Adebayor swanned off to Africa, you knew we needed a proper striker. What’s the point of Bale and Azza putting in half-decent crosses if no one’s there? Dempsey won’t manage it, even if he catches the Tube.

I got Azza that from the latest Hotspur mag. It’s what Aaron Lennon is called in the dressing room. I have two rose-tinted loyal Spurs fans either side, Sue and Kath, and I think they are getting pissed off by my bad language – and cynicism.

Hurrah, at long bloody last, he is sending on Adebayor, long streak of teeth but at least a striker.

Oh no, too late, Newcastle are slicing through, the Toon Army has come alive. To Dare is to Do ? What the hell does that mean? Stupid bloody slogan.

And where have all these adverts in Japanese come from, or is it Chinese? God I am so ignorant. If they are watching this shite in Japan or China, good luck to them. Shows we are playing rubbish, if I am wondering about the ads. Obvious displacement activity. I’ll be Mexican-waving next.

Phil Dowd, you fat bastard, that was a hand ball. Lose some weight and you might see better.

I’ve set the video as the game is live on telly but I’ll wipe it straight off when I get home – who wants to watch rubbish twice? Typical bloody Spurs, get us all excited, a few good results, then back to mediocre crap, been mediocre all my life. Kath and Sue don’t know nuffink, poor naive sods.

If Bale goes to Real Madrid we’ll get some money for a proper striker.Where is he anyway, is he still on the pitch – fuck me, he’s only stormed through and scored again!!! God, amazing, a one-man feast of footer, he could have had two hat tricks.

If he gets injured, we might as well pack up for the season, give everyone their money back, let the builders in to finish the new stadium.

Final whistle, 2-1. I jump up and hug both Kath and Sue. They could be crying, for joy or from hot coffee spilled over them . .

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 18 February 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: ten years on

Photo: Getty Images
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A simple U-Turn may not be enough to get the Conservatives out of their tax credit mess

The Tories are in a mess over cuts to tax credits. But a mere U-Turn may not be enough to fix the problem. 

A spectre is haunting the Conservative party - the spectre of tax credit cuts. £4.4bn worth of cuts to the in-work benefits - which act as a top-up for lower-paid workers - will come into force in April 2016, the start of the next tax year - meaning around three million families will be £1,000 worse off. For most dual-earner families affected, that will be the equivalent of a one partner going without pay for an entire month.

The politics are obviously fairly toxic: as one Conservative MP remarked to me before the election, "show me 1,000 people in my constituency who would happily take a £1,000 pay cut, then we'll cut welfare". Small wonder that Boris Johnson is already making loud noises about the coming cuts, making his opposition to them a central plank of his 

Tory nerves were already jittery enough when the cuts were passed through the Commons - George Osborne had to personally reassure Conservative MPs that the cuts wouldn't result in the nightmarish picture being painted by Labour and the trades unions. Now that Johnson - and the Sun - have joined in the chorus of complaints.

There are a variety of ways the government could reverse or soften the cuts. The first is a straightforward U-Turn: but that would be politically embarrassing for Osborne, so it's highly unlikely. They could push back the implementation date - as one Conservative remarked - "whole industries have arranged their operations around tax credits now - we should give the care and hospitality sectors more time to prepare". Or they could adjust the taper rates - the point in your income  at which you start losing tax credits, taking away less from families. But the real problem for the Conservatives is that a mere U-Turn won't be enough to get them out of the mire. 

Why? Well, to offset the loss, Osborne announced the creation of a "national living wage", to be introduced at the same time as the cuts - of £7.20 an hour, up 70p from the current minimum wage.  In doing so, he effectively disbanded the Low Pay Commission -  the independent body that has been responsible for setting the national minimum wage since it was introduced by Tony Blair's government in 1998.  The LPC's board is made up of academics, trade unionists and employers - and their remit is to set a minimum wage that provides both a reasonable floor for workers without costing too many jobs.

Osborne's "living wage" fails at both counts. It is some way short of a genuine living wage - it is 70p short of where the living wage is today, and will likely be further off the pace by April 2016. But, as both business-owners and trade unionists increasingly fear, it is too high to operate as a legal minimum. (Remember that the campaign for a real Living Wage itself doesn't believe that the living wage should be the legal wage.) Trade union organisers from Usdaw - the shopworkers' union - and the GMB - which has a sizable presence in the hospitality sector -  both fear that the consequence of the wage hike will be reductions in jobs and hours as employers struggle to meet the new cost. Large shops and hotel chains will simply take the hit to their profit margins or raise prices a little. But smaller hotels and shops will cut back on hours and jobs. That will hit particularly hard in places like Cornwall, Devon, and Britain's coastal areas - all of which are, at the moment, overwhelmingly represented by Conservative MPs. 

The problem for the Conservatives is this: it's easy to work out a way of reversing the cuts to tax credits. It's not easy to see how Osborne could find a non-embarrassing way out of his erzatz living wage, which fails both as a market-friendly minimum and as a genuine living wage. A mere U-Turn may not be enough.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.