By our undercover reporters M. Adeup and T. Ruth
Following revelations that Tottenham Hotspur FC have applied to the government for a non-refundable grant for the redevelopment of their White Hart Lane “ground” we decided to seek an interview with the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the Right Hon Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt MP, BA (Hons).
Us: You are the minister for both sport in general – including football – and for the olympics. Is that right?
Streynsham: Actually I am secretary of state old boy, but minister will do.
Us: And what does that job entail?
Streynsham: I just sit in my office and curse a bit. Generally something then happens.
Streynsham: Indeed. And if I may say it is an honour and privilege to….
Us: So concerning football, you said in June 2010 that hooliganism played a part in the death of 96 football fans in the Hillsborough disaster, rather than administrative incompetence, police incompetence, ground staff incompetence, and a complete inability of the UK government at any time in the previous 100 years to ensure that health and safety inspections were undertaken at football grounds. Is that true?
Us: Do you want to apologise to the families of the 96 specifically, and to all football supporters in general.
Streynsham: I make it a rule never to apologize. Good people, decent people, honourable people do not want apologies, and the other sort just take advantage of them. But yes, I have apologised.
Streynsham: I did but I later apologised.
Us: Is it also true that you have no interest in sport whatsoever, although you have had a lot to do with campaigning about hospitals, you speak fluent Japanese, you were head boy of the private school Chaterhouse, you went to the elitist Oxford University and were deeply involved in politics there? In short there is no serious reference to sport on your cv.
Streynsham: Well, no, yes… Success came to one gradually and I find it something of a shock to wake up and realise the power and prestige I now have.
Us: And is it is not also true that you remain in government as a secretary of state, despite having fiddled your parliamentary expenses?
Streynsham: I was not found guilty of any criminal offence.
Us: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh? The official record suggests you were in breach of the rules in not reducing your claims on the Additional Costs Allowance. And don’t the records also show that as a result public funds provided a benefit to your agent – which is against the law? And when your wheeze was tumbled is it not true that you repaid half the money?
Streynsham: Well yes.
Us: So to find a man’s true character, we find we have to put the truth to him until he admits it. Do you want to say more?
Us: Anyway didn’t you also admit that you made a claim for services on a Farnham home in the period when it was actually your main home – which is against the law. And is it no also true that the official record of the House of Commons shows that your “office arrangements were at best disorganised”?
Us: So now we have a situation in which here we have you, secretary of state, a man whom the public record shows runs an office that is at best disorganised, who sought to move blame for Hillsborough onto fans, a man who has no history of interest in sport, and a man whom the public record also showed fiddled his expenses, and is the man who has to oversee the future of the location of Tottenham Hotspur, in terms of their application to get the Olympic ground from the West Ham firm, and their application to have the state pay for the redeveloping of White Hart Lane home.
Streynsham: Well, they can’t have both!
Us: How can we believe you are competent to run a government department in this way when you can’t even run your own office or honestly handle your own expense accounts?
Streynsham: The chairman of Tottenham, Mr Daniel Levy, told me they are working hard to make the Northumberland Park Development Scheme viable and enable Tottenham to stay and redevelop the existing site. But they also want to move to the east end. It is perfectly natural that they have applied to the Regional Growth Fund for a grant. I don’t control the RGF.
Us: We are not surprised with your organisational record!
Streynsham: Mr Levy told me that public sector assistance for infrastructure and public realm works would enable the club to deliver the project and the RGF represents the single most important route for funding. Our hope must be that there is a recognition of the real need for investment in the Northumberland Park ward and that this project presents a real opportunity to deliver sustainable long-term, private sector-led regeneration.
Us: Did Mr Levy give you any money to sway the deal?
Streynsham: No! That would be outrageous!
Us: Fair enough. So what’s going to happen?
Streynsham: Look, Tottenham need a new stadium, and it is not my job to find them one, but their local MP is keen on the project so you should talk to him.
Us: Are you a Tottenham supporter?
Streynsham: I don’t know anything about football.
Us: You don’t know anything about sport do you secretary of state?
Streynsham: As it happens, no.
Us: And yet this issue will fall under your office, at least in part. So can you give us any reason why a commercial enterprise like Tottenham Hotspur FC should have public money to help them build a ground, while Arsenal FC have to find their own money and do everything commercially and properly?
Streynsham: Oh come on. Tottenham’s a shit hole. No one in their right mind is going to put money into a scheme to build a new ground there.
Us: But the government will?
Streynsham: Almost certainly.
Next up our intrepid pair interview the extraordinary David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham.
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