Harriet Harman arrives at the Oxford Media Convention on February 26, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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PMQs review: Harman shows Clegg no mercy

Labour's deputy leader's all-out assault on the Lib Dems' record showed that she believes the party can't afford to go soft on the yellows.

With David Cameron away in Israel, it was left to Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman to duel it out at today's PMQs. Harman, who has long urged Labour to maintain an aggressive stance towards the Lib Dems and to avoid any hint of coalition, seized the opportunity to attack Clegg over three of the issues that have done most to alienate his party's left: the NHS reforms (most pertinently Jeremy Hunt's "hospital closure clause"), the bedroom tax (opposed by party president Tim Farron) and the abolition of the 50p tax rate.

In response, Clegg turned his guns on Labour's record in government. It was Labour, he declared, that "spent £250m on sweetheart deals for the private sector", that left too many people on council house waiting lists, and that kept the top rate of tax at 40p (as opposed to the current 45p) for all but one month of its time in office. He branded them "the party of 40p, sweetheart deals in the NHS, the party of Fred Goodwin, and the party against apprenticeships."

The problem with this line of attack is the extent to which Ed Miliband has distanced Labour from its past. He has declared that the last government got it wrong on banking, on housing, on tax and on privatisation. Given this, Clegg's charges largely fell flat. In choosing to attack Labour from the left, he also failed to even attempt to justify the rightwards direction of the coalition.

None of Harman's lines were particularly powerful or original. After Clegg's paean to Britain in his spring conference speech she declared: "doesn’t he realise he might love Britain, but Britain does not love him back?" and ended: "They used to talk about two parties coming together in the national interest; now they’re two parties bound together by mutual terror of the electorate."

But her strategy was a smart one. In order to win a majority in 2015, Labour needs to focus on retaining the support of the 25 per cent plus of 2010 Lib Dem voters who have defected (a swing larger than the cumulative increase in the Conservative vote between 1997 and 2010). The best way to do this is to continually remind those voters of the Conservative policies Clegg's party has enabled in government (the NHS reforms, the bedroom tax, the abolition of the 50p rate) and of the Lib Dems' rightwards drift, which alienate those who viewed them as a left-wing alternative to Labour. Today, she emphatically achieved that objective.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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