Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. They’re out to get Cameron, but let’s not laugh too soon (Independent)

After plebgate and traingate the left longs to see Cameron unseated - but be careful what you wish for, writes Owen Jones.

2. It's been a week of low farce for the Tories. Yet little has really changed (Guardian)

Coalition troubles don't mean improving Labour fortunes: the economy and the eurozone still offer Cameron a chance, says Jackie Ashley.

3. Shadow of 9/11 towers over the US election (Financial Times)

The presidential campaign shows that the US has not yet left the Bush era behind, says Edward Luce.

4. Our universities need the Californian dream (Times) (£)

Britain must diversify: we should offer more than three-year degrees aimed at school leavers, writes Martin Rees.

5. This presidential election show is lame, but the outcome could be dramatic (Guardian)

The Democrats are clearly doing something right, yet almost any outcome lies within a narrowing margin of error, writes Gary Younge.

6. With the BBC on the run, ITV’s reputation is gaining ground (Independent)

The Savile story is essentially a tale of two broadcasters, and ITV will come out looking better for it, says Ian Burrell.

7. The austerity debate: time to think much bigger (Guardian)

Halting the government's programme to shrink the state will not resolve the other underlying problems, says a Guardian editorial.

8. Banking union will not end Europe’s crisis (Financial Times)

The project could unite the EU’s core but it will also separate it from the rest, writes Wolfgang Munchau.

9. David Cameron’s Euro pledge is a load of Brussels spouts (Sun)

Can we believe a word "Cast Iron Dave" says about a referendum after his previous broken promises, asks Nigel Farage.

10. Carlton Club snub adds to Mitchell woes (Daily Mail)

The club membership committee has decided unanimously to give honorary membership to Grant Shapps, the new Tory chairman, but not Mitchell, writes Andrew Pierce.

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It’s obvious why Thais can’t resist our English footballers. But they want our schools, too

The only explanation is . . . our footer must be great and exciting to watch.

At Bangkok airport, sitting in the Club lounge, as I am a toff, I spotted a copy of Thailand Tatler, a publication I did not know existed. Flicking through, I came across a whole page advert announcing that RUGBY SCHOOL IS COMING TO THAILAND.

In September, Rugby will open a prep and pre-prep department, and then, in 2018, full boarding for ages up to 17. How exciting – yet another English public school sets up a satellite in Thailand.

But I was confused. Just as I was confused all week by the Thai passion for our football.

How has it happened that English public schools and English football have become so popular in Thailand? There is no colonial or historical connection between the UK and Thailand. English is not the Thais’ first language, unlike in other parts of the world such as India and Hong Kong. Usually that explains the continuation of British traditions, culture and games long after independence.

When I go to foreign parts, I always take a large wodge of Beatles and football postcards. I find deprived persons all over the world are jolly grateful for these modern versions of shiny beads – and it saves tipping the hotel staff. No young Thai locals were interested in my Beatles bits, but boy, my footer rubbish had them frothing.

I took a stash of seven-year-old postcards of Andy Carroll in his Newcastle strip, part of a set given away free in Barclays banks when they sponsored the Premier League. I assumed no one in Thailand would know who the hell Andy Carroll was, but blow me, every hotel waiter and taxi driver recognised him, knew about his various clubs and endless injuries. And they all seemed to watch every Premiership game live.

I have long been cynical about the boasts that our Prem League is the most watched, the most popular in the world, with 200 countries taking our TV coverage every week. I was once in Turkey and went into the hotel lounge to watch the live footer. It was chocka with Turks watching a local game, shouting and screaming. When it finished, the lounge emptied: yet the next game was our FA Cup live. So I watched it on my own. Ever since, I’ve suspected that while Sky might sell rights everywhere, it doesn’t mean many other folk are watching.

But in Thailand I could see their passion, though most of them have no experience of England. So the only explanation is . . . our footer must be great and exciting to watch. Hurrah for us.

Explaining the passion for English public schools is a bit harder. At present in Thailand, there are about 14 boarding schools based on the English public-school system.

Rugby is only the latest arrival. Harrow has had a sister school there since 1998. So do Shrewsbury, Bromsgrove and Dulwich College (recently renamed British International School, Phuket).

But then I met Anthony Lark, the general manager of the beautiful resort where I was staying in the north of the island. He’s Australian, been out there for thirty years, married to a Thai. All three of his sons went to the Phuket school when it was still Dulwich International College.

His explanations for the popularity of all these British-style schools included the fact that Thailand is the gateway to Asia, easy to get to from India and China; that it’s relatively safe; economically prosperous, with lots of rich people; and, of course, it’s stunningly beautiful, with lovely weather.

There are 200,000 British expats in Thailand but they are in the minority in most of these British-style public schools – only about 20 per cent of the intake. Most pupils are the children of Thais, or from the surrounding nations.

Many of the teachers, though, are from English-speaking nations. Anthony estimated there must be about five thousand of them, so the schools must provide a lot of work. And presumably a lot of income. And, of course, pride.

Well, I found my little chest swelling at the thought that two of our oldest national institutions should be so awfully popular, so awfully far away from home . . . 

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 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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