Enough to make true Geordies cry

I have made a bid for Newcastle United. Can't reveal how much, as my backers like total secrecy, but we are thrilled about the latest nonsense with Keegan, having to pay him £2m (in fact, with all the nonsenses these past few years). Having tossers in charge has played into our hands - so has getting demoted. Everyone thinks the club is shite, and nothing can save it. Hee hee. What a bargain we is going to get.

I honestly can't think of a better club to buy in the whole of the UK. Notts County? Yeh, I was offered that. I could see the advantages for throwing money around, but come on, you're having a laugh. Portsmouth? No chance. How would you ever get your money back - or have any fun?

Liverpool? They are on the blower all the time, but like Man United, the people selling are no mugs. It would be safer to buy the Crown jewels from Del Boy. Leeds United? Ken Bates is a pushover, all bluster and splutter. Unknown to him, I have most of the shares already through my company Hunter Holdings, based in Jersey, controlled by HD Int of Geneva, which is part of Shagg Investments of Bequia in the West Indies. Our registered office is a hut on Lower Bay. I go there every two years, if I can find the key, and have a sail in my little dinghy, Hot Shagg.

The Leeds investment is a sleeper. Ditto with Arsenal. Just acquired another 100 shares at £8,500 each, but will wait till the Krankies or the Dabitoffs take over, then they'll have to offer me double. But Newcastle, that will be a 100 per cent takeover. I feel sentimental about them from my Durham days, and I've got money to spend, not leaving it to my kids. What a club, what history, what players they've had - Hughie Gee, Wor Jackie, Gazza, Waddler, Wanka, Fatty Arbuckle (note to subs, please check spellings). And what pots they have won - four top titles, six FA Cups. Back in the Dark Ages, but shows it can be done.

It's the capital of the Geordie nation, focus of all local pride and culture, unlike any other provincial capital in Europe. The nearest counterpart is Barça, but there are two big competing clubs in Barcelona. Newcastle has only one. Not just an opportunity. A monopoly. Keep your feet still, Geordie hinnie, away the lads, two more pints of Newcastle Brown, canny lad, the Blaydon Races, Northern Rock . . . These emotive points of reference bring tears to the eyes of true Geordies - hold on, perhaps delete Northern Rock. Focus on the cash flowing in from those 52,000 idiots, I mean loyal fans. Tell them any old cobblers, unveil a new messiah every season, probably even at half-time or throw-ins, and they'll stampede to buy the season tickets, the shirts, the pies.

OK, I will tell you the offer - £50m, a snip. My partners have money, loads of it, but naturally we are borrowing. Our security is the club, which we haven't got, but will use it to guarantee our loan (so if it all goes pear-shaped, we lose nothing, the debts all belong to the club, boom boom). No one will trace the true owners, apart from, perhaps, the sod who nicked the key to my Bequia beach hut.

You think I'm kidding? Let me point out one thing. When it is announced that Newcastle have "new owners", how will you or anyone else know that I am NOT behind the deal?

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 12 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Barack W Bush

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.