Kurdish fighters in Iraq. Photo: Getty
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The UK would “favourably consider” arming Kurdish fighters in Iraq

The government would supply weapons to the Kurds fighting extremists in Iraq, if they request arms.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed at an emergency Cobra meeting to be prepared to supply Kurdish fighters in Iraq with weapons if they request them.

There is a meeting today in Brussels of EU foreign ministers, where the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will tell his European counterparts that the UK is prepared to join the French in arming the Kurds fighting against extremists in Iraq.

France and the US have already supplied arms to the Kurds, and Downing Street sources say that although the Kurds have not yet asked the UK for direct help, it will consider any request for supplies.

The Guardian reports a Downing Street spokesperson referring to these new developments at the most recent Cobra meeting: “It is vital that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are able to stop the advance of [Isis] terrorists across the country… We will also continue our work to ensure that Kurdish forces have the military supplies they require, including transporting more equipment from eastern Europe. The Foreign Secretary will use the meeting of foreign ministers from across Europe to press for better coordination of aid and military supplies to Iraq.”

On the BBC’s Today programme this morning, the former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown called for an “integrated strategy” by the West to address a “widening Sunni/Shia war”, saying it “is time we joined the dots. Instead of having a series of plans for a series of humanitarian catastrophes…”

He insisted that the UK must prioritise helping the Kurdish fighters in Iraq: “Support the Kurds, support them with arms – I can’t imagine why the government has been so reluctant about this.” He called the Kurds a “secular, northern bulwark against ISIS”.

Ashdown also urged the UK government to, “put pressure on Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stop funding the Jihadis. I can’t imagine why our government has failed to put pressure on them not to do this before…”

This touches on the wider concern of the UK’s reticence to take the lead on foreign policy in this part of the world. At present, it is difficult to imagine Cameron making the first steps, ahead of, or even in step with, the US and France in the Middle East.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at 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