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Commons Confidential: potshots at the Lords

“I am recruiting for this year’s Lords v Commons full-bore rifle competition,” the 12th Baron Lucas emailed peers…

Arnie Graf, the man Ed Miliband asked to rebuild Labour, was kept waiting for an hour for a scheduled meeting before party election mastermind Spencer Livermore deigned to see him. Rudeness is a political weapon and a snout, cringing at the discourtesy, contrasted Old Ed with New Ed. Old Ed hired Graf, a mentor to Barack Obama when the future US president was a community organiser in Chicago, to revive the grass roots. New Ed’s latest best friend from America is David Axelrod, as Miliband’s team grabs power at the centre. Graf has been around the block a few times but he is, I’m assured, frustrated by the paranoia and politicking at the top of the Labour Party.

 

“I am recruiting for this year’s Lords v Commons full-bore rifle competition,” the 12th Baron Lucas emailed peers. “If you, or anyone you know who is connected with the Lords, a total novice or an experienced shot, would like to participate, please put them in touch with me.” There’s nothing like an Old Etonian hereditary to remind us that the House of Lords hasn’t changed that much.

 

David Cameron’s increasingly dictatorial style is irking Tory backbenchers. One MP recounted how the whips had vowed to make his life a misery and blame the poor chap personally if the party loses next year’s election. “We believe in one man, one vote democracy in the Conservative Party,” he grumbled, “and David Cameron is the man with that vote.”

 

The arts minister Ed “Hazy” Vaizey listed the pictures in the British embassy in Tehran when it was ransacked by rioters in 2011. Among the portraits of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V was a picture of the deposed shah of Iran. Talk about a red rag to an Iranian mob.

 

Belated word reaches me of a London fundraiser for frontbencher Lisa Nandy’s Wigan constituency. Miliband’s policy guru Jon Cruddas was the guest speaker. Surveying the crowd drawn from the party’s left and right, he joked: “Here we are, in a room full of Progress people and Compass people. What others don’t understand is we are united by one thing: we all hate the Brownites.” Shadow cabinet meetings would be enlivened if the roguish Cruddas were placed between Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper.

 

Stop press: Ed Miliband might have avoided his Sun scorching if he had been better informed, reading newspapers instead of posing with a promo copy. For a man who claims to eschew public
prints, he has earned quite a reputation for griping to editors about journalists penning disobliging articles. I can’t help but wonder if the complaints are undermined by his not reading the papers he complains about.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 18 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Islam tears itself apart

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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