Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "The Foreign Secretary supports Blackburn Rovers Football Club"

I was doubly upset when Tottenham Hotspur got knocked out of the FA Cup. First, because Spurs are my team; second, Tony Blair's team, Newcastle, knocked them out. Only joking. Blair no more supports that lucky lot than Jack Straw really supports Blackburn Rovers.

The Foreign Secretary went on the Today programme to talk not about Iraq or Afghanistan, but about Blackburn Rovers making it through to the Cup semi-final and a possible game against Newcastle. "Your lot against the Prime Minister's!" said the BBC bod. "No, Tony Blair's just a fair-weather fan," Straw chortled. Well actually, no, he doesn't follow them, not even in fair weather. I first exposed this some years ago, when

I made sure all the hacks got to know about the local radio interview where, without Alastair Campbell to tell him what to say, Blair badly failed his Newcastle fan test.

Straw has had more time to practise his Blackburn knowledge but you can still spot a phoney. "How long have you supported Rovers?" he was asked. "We've had season tickets for 15 years," came the reply. The honest answer would have been: "As long as I've been MP for Blackburn."

Plenty of MPs are genuine football fans: I've had to suffer sitting next to Tony Banks at Chelsea. And not all MPs support their local constituency team. On my way to a Spurs match in Leeds, I bumped into Hilary Benn, a Leeds MP. He told me he was meant to be in London that weekend but was going to Leeds specially for the match. But, for God's sake, Charlie, he said, "don't tell anyone I'm a Spurs fan".

Sorry, Hilary, I've had to suffer long enough, so why shouldn't you?

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