Clark praises spirit of English hooligans

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The Independent Online
ALAN CLARK is an unlikely champion for the British football supporter abroad. But the bon viveur, who lives in a castle and has never been to a football match in his life, yesterday unequivocally defended the English "guys" involved in the violence in Marseilles.

The level of prejudice that exists against English people - both from the French police and other supporters - is so widespread that they "haven't got a chance", he said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, adding that it was "a kind of compliment to the English martial spirit" the way other groups of supporters sought them out.

"If you are English you are targeted, and if you are English and tough- looking and wearing an English flag - and why shouldn't you? - and if you are, you will find that not only the ordinary police target you, but there are particular groups of thugs who are set up," said Mr Clark, the Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea.

"You can't expect teams of supporters to stand back and be sneered at and spat at and have missiles hurled at them.

"I've never experienced a football riot, but I know that violence is endemic in these games. I've played in the Eton wall game and that was an extremely violent experience and the fact is that football matches are now a substitute for the old medieval tournaments. They are in their nature aggressive and confrontational, so it is perfectly natural that some of the fans should be obstreperous."

Mr Clark also attacked Sir Norman Fowler, the shadow Home Secretary, for trying to tighten up the laws restricting hooligans from travelling abroad. "I don't know why he's doing this. It is completely un-Conservative to try to restrict people's movements. It takes us back to the 18b regulations of the war, when you were trying to limit undesirable aliens."

The Labour Party called for the Conservative leader William Hague to discipline Mr Clark immediately for his remarks. A Labour spokesman said: "There can be absolutely no excuse for violence from whatever quarter. Mr Hague should immediately discipline Mr Clark - otherwise he will be colluding in an apology for the worst sort of violent hooliganism."

A spokesman for Conservative Central Office distanced itself from Mr Clark, saying: "Alan Clark's views are not those of the Conservative Party, the public and the vast majority of decent football supporters, who are united in their disgust at the actions of the football thugs in France. Sir Norman Fowler's proposed amendments to the Crime and Disorder Bill seek to give the magistrates new powers to deal with football violence. We hope the Government will accept our proposals."

Mr Clark accused politicians and the media of concentrating on the violence of the English fans and ignoring the fact that they were frequently provoked by foreign supporters.

"I know how camera crews work and if they have been told by their editors, just as reporters on the English papers have been told by their editors, simply to focus on English misbehaviour, that is what they will do."

the wisdom of alan clark

"You mean to say, they don't want us collecting their names and addresses because they are afraid we will hand them over to the immigration service so they can send them back to Bongo Bongo Land." (Meeting on ethnic monitoring, 1984)

"I find most of them boring, petty, malign, clumsily conspiratorial and parochial to a degree that cannot be surpassed in any part of the United Kingdom." (On local constituency associations, particularly Plymouth Sutton, then his constituency, Diaries, 1985)

"Only domestic servants apologise for things they have said." (Interview, on being asked if he would apologise for his casual resignation from the Plymouth seat in 1992)

"You cannot get a decent claret for under pounds 100 these days." (Diaries)

"That podgy life-insurance risk." (On Kenneth Clarke, Diaries)