As David Cameron was busy taking his new kid to baby karate this week – it was left to Nick Clegg, our exciting Deputy Prime Minister, to deal with the Fifa inspection of the England bid to host the World Cup in 2018. Clegg, it has to be said, has never really expressed any previous interest in the game. I managed to listen in on the phone call.
"Hello... Number 10..."
"Hello, may I speak to the Prime Minister please? It is Fifa calling."
"Prime Minister's busy... I can put you through to the Deputy Prime Minister if you like... he's never busy."
"Uuumm... sure... why not?"
"Deputy Prime Minister... it's Fifi on the line for you... putting you through."
"Thank you... hello... who is this please?"
"Hello Deputy Prime Minister, it is Fifa here – not Fifi."
"It's Acting Prime Minister at the moment... who is this – Aviva, the insurance people?"
"No sir... Fifa, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association... we run football."
"Oh... what do you want?"
"Well, we thought you might like to hear the bullet points of our report on the England World Cup bid before we release it to the press."
"The World Cup bid for 2018... do you remember you showed us round Downing Street?"
"Uuuhhmmm... yes... of course... huge fan of the game."
"Right, well overall everything is very satisfactory – the grounds are obviously top-notch, the passion for the game is huge, the infrastructure is... well, it is good but expensive."
"Yes, one of our inspectors tells me that it cost him £800 to take a train from London to Brighton."
"Eight hundred pounds! I admit that the trains are expensive but that sounds excessive."
"Apparently the gentleman at the counter said that this was a special discount rate and that normally it would be over a thousand pounds... one way..."
"Well, that seems too much but I don't really travel by train so I can't help there."
"OK... how about accommodation?"
"What about it? Some of the best hotels in the world are in London."
"Yes... for sure... it's other cities that we are a little more worried about. The inspectors stayed in a... how you call it? B&B... Bed and breakfast?"
"Ah yes... very traditional... wonderful English institution."
"You have stayed in one yourself?"
"God no... uuhhhmm... no... not really."
"My inspector says that the establishment was run by a lady called Mrs Miggins. This Mrs Miggins said that she was happy to take him in as she didn't mind the French – but that she would not have any Germans or Australians to stay because, and I quote – 'of the war and the bread stealing...'"
"Right... well, that is deplorable, but I'm sure this was a one-off."
"Then Mrs Miggins told my inspector that she did not believe that the lady with him was his wife and so she was not allowed to stay. He was also told that if he did stay alone, he needed to be in by 9pm, would need to give two days' notice if he wanted a bath and that she hoped that he wasn't a vegetarian as she believed them to be – and I quote again – 'children of the corn'."
"This is terrible, obviously, but hardly representative."
"So then my inspector ate his dinner in Harvester's Inn... I believe these are traditional. The television was on and he saw an advertisement for Premier Inns – where the funny big black man sleeps."
"Who... oh, Lenny Henry?"
"Yes Henry... so he and his wife booked into the Premier Inn after the dinner."
"Look, sorry... this is fascinating but I'm really busy – I've got stuff to do – what is the point of all this?"
"The point, Mr Legg..."
"The point, Mr Clegg, is that our inspectors do not think that there is currently enough quality accommodation in your country to satisfy the football fans who will attend the World Cup, should England be fortunate enough to win the bid."
"What? They're football fans, not visiting royalty. Can't they stay in caravans or something?"
"May I quote you on that?"
"What? No... God no... Uuhmmm, look, I don't know what to tell you, we're hosting the Olympics and that's a bit more classy than the World Cup, if you don't mind me saying so."
"Fascinating. Whatever your view on football, the Olympics are just in London and the World Cup is all over the country. This is my point, we have no problem with London..."
"Look... I'll be honest here, this really isn't my bag. I'm really busy right now – why don't you speak to Cameron when he's back? He likes to pretend he likes the game."
"I will do that, Mr Cegg."
"Whatever – au revoir..."Reuse content