*stand-in editor panics about spreading misinformation while M Salut is swanning around abroad
I am not one for reading the Daily Mail – indeed I would usually reject fish and chips if they came wrapped in it – but my attention was drawn to it this morning while I was trying to persuade the cat to take a pill by stroking its throat, a task that brings hours of entertainment as I comb the kitchen floor trying to find out where he has spat out the damn thing.
The Today programme mentioned that the Mail was running a story about Miliband Major becoming Vice Chairman of Sunderland AFC. I thought about buying a copy on the way to work, but decided against betraying my class and read the story on line.
And for once the Mail seemed to be right. It has a dreadful record – I am sure that all readers are familiar with the Zinoviev Letter of 1924 – and this story was written in the sneering terms that Associated Newspapers reserve for Socialist politicians, who are clearly expected to know their place and doff their (flat) caps to the toffs who, quite rightly in their distorted view, run this country.
They did a mock up of Miliband Major in a Sunderland shirt, but true to form, they used last season’s, a fine example of research by their political staff. They also had him holding a banana, a reference to a less than flattering photo image from his failed campaign to be leader of the Labour Party.
Our more knowledgeable readers may remember that he lost that to his younger brother ( a man who my colleague at work always likens to Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame), so Miliband Major is clearly on the lookout for extracurricular work away from the jolly old House of Commons.
Prior to this exclusive, I had never heard him utter any great love for SAFC. I suppose being member for South Shields he would represent Mags as well (although most of them would have enormous difficulty in making something as complicated as a cross on a ballot paper) so it is better to keep your mouth shut rather than make a complete arse of yourself as Blair did when he said that he sat in the Gallowgate End watching Jackie Milburn pass to Hughie Gallacher when he was in short trousers at The Choristers School in Durham.
The Mail says that Miliband Major is an Arsenal fan, which seems reasonable seeing as he was brought up in North London (with a short hiatus in Leeds – Miliband Minor is a Leeds fan – idiot!!). He went to school at Haverstock Comp and he must have been surrounded by Gooners there, maybe even by the wonderful Monty and Rupert, whom the Emirate’s tannoy called upon, on our last visit to Ashburton Grove.
As a result of this appointment, can we now expect to see groups of left leaning North London intellectuals clustering near to the South West Corner in order to follow their guru’s example of finding a proper football club to follow? Will his influence pervade the Durham Branch away coach and lead to conversations on Marxist Theory and Cuban Politics rather than on who has the biggest boobs in the Daily Star?
David is not the first prominent politician to be involved with Sunderland AFC. Sir Anthony Eden, a Tory of the old school, Foreign Secretary under Chamberlain (Neville, not Alex) and Churchill (Winston, not that infuriating bloody dog) and Prime Minister in his own right for a few months in the mid 50’s, was a keen Sunderland fan.
Eden was born at Windlestone Hall, midway between Coundon and Chilton. His family had been coal owners in the past and he was quoted in DR Thorpe’s excellent biography, as saying that he occasionally joined the Durham miners on their pilgrimages to Roker Park in the days after the First World War.
He may well have attended the 1937 FA Cup Final and was apparently reprimanded by those in the Royal Box for singing “You’ll Never Cure That Stammer” at King George VI. In his later days, according to Thorpe, he expressed great delight at the FA Cup win over Leeds United in 1973, although what he would have made over the debacle at the weekend, goodness only knows. It would probably have upset him as much as the Suez Crisis did!!
Politicians and football don’t really go together. I can’t think of many who are real fans, most being like Blair and jumping on the bandwagon. In one of my many conversations with him, I observed that he should become a Sunderland fan as “we had a better team and a better stadium” (this was 2000 when the Mags were rubbish and the full Meccano rebuild was still in progress). “You can never change your football team” said the then P.M “Aye, but you can change your principles and beliefs” came the muttered response from a grizzled veteran of the staff room.
Michael Foot was a loyal supporter of Plymouth Argyle and was even given a squad number in one of their promotion seasons. I have just finished reading Kenneth O Morgan’s superb biography of Foot and there is a great picture of a handful of Foots sitting in the stands watching a game. He even persuaded the local council in Hampstead to rename his street Pilgrims Lane. Top guy!!
Cameron pretends to be a Villa fan, while Clegg has never shown the slightest interest in the game. Coming from Beaconsfield he should be a Wycombe Wanderers fan, but I would imagine he spent his teenage years writing out lists of promises and then tearing them up at the earliest opportunity.
Rumour has it that Thatcher was a closet Grantham Town fan who would lecture fellow Gingerbread’s fans on the terraces at London Road about thrift and never spending more than you earn, until they got fed up of it and set fire to her school uniform.
So, welcome to David Miliband. Here’s hoping that he can get off to a winning start on Sunday and that his tenure as Vice Chairman of the world’s greatest football club is a little more successful than his attempts to be the next Prime Minister of the UK. Do you think he really knows what FTM means?