Political goals

A tale of Prezza, the Penthouse Pets and parliament's footie team.

I went on The Andrew Marr Show the other Sunday morning, I do like to help, reviewing the newspapers. You get to keep the papers, so that's good, and they give you a big breakfast, another plus, but the money is a measly £110, which they said was the set rate, no negotiating. Politicians, with their ample perks and expenses, would do it for nothing, just for the exposure, but they are a race apart. It took up five hours of my life, including an hour skimming, I mean reading, the papers. So the money was laughable. By comparison, the NS is paying me a fortune. But say nothing.

However, I did learn something interesting. On the show was the boyish-looking cabinet minister Douglas Alexander. It's not young-looking policemen who worry me, but all these children running the country. He's Scottish, son of a Church of Scotland minister, Reverend Douglas Alexander (Douglas's own son in turn is called Douglas - no imagination in these Scottish families).

Douglas's grandfather, also a minister, also called Douglas, was chaplain to Glasgow Rangers and went with them in the team plane just after the war in 1945, when they flew to London to play Arsenal, in one of the first big postwar football games to cheer us all up. It's something Douglas has always been quite proud of, but what he didn't know until recently, when David Murray, the owner of Rangers told him, was that after that game, the Arsenal board presented the Rangers board with one Arsenal share. I rang Arsenal, and yup, Rangers still have it.

On paper, which is of course what shares basically are, one share doesn't normally mean much, except in this case there are not millions and millions of shares, as with big businesses. There are only 64,000 Arsenal shares, each one worth around £7,500 at present, though you can't buy them on the open market. In theory, when the American or Vietnamese vultures swoop, Rangers could well hold the vital share.

Douglas also told me that he often turns out for the Houses of Parliament football team, who play charity matches. Other recent leading lights include Jim Murphy and Sadiq Khan. Not long ago, Douglas played for the Scottish MPs (coached by the footballer Craig Gordon), who thumped the English MPs.

I happened to be looking through John Prescott's archives, as I'm ghosting his memoirs (handed in last week, hold your breath). He often turned out for the parliamentary team in the 1970s, despite not being very skilful. His strength was in kicking people. Quite a few 1970s pop stars and DJs probably bear the scars to this day. Boxing, after all, was his best sport, followed by croquet. He played in one charity game against the Penthouse Pets - surely he didn't kick them? - when the MPs were coached by Malcolm Allison, one-time manager of Man City. And one against German MPs.

Among his treasures is a programme from 9 March 1975, for a game played at Dulwich Hamlet's ground against a Showbiz XI, which seems to have been the first time there was an official House of Commons team. It lists Neil Kinnock as goalie and/or defender (let's hope he knew the difference). Other stars included Jonathan Aitken, Ivan Lawrence, John Moore, Nicholas Scott, Robert Kilroy-Silk and Sir George Young. Lord Craigavon, according to the programme, had played for Eton's first XI, while Reverend Robert Bradford, an Ulster Unionist MP, had been a soccer blue. Ah, parliament had quality in those days . . .

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 25 February 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Pakistan reborn