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It’s Wexit not Brexit in the Commons as MPs talk Arsenal

Politicians – including a Spurs fan – pay tribute to Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign as Gunners boss

18 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Just a few MPs attended the House of Commons this week to discuss Arsene Wenger

IT may not have been a sell-out crowd – there were one or two empty seats – but the match of the day in the House of Commons this week saw MPs debate one of the heavy issues of our time: The importance of Arsene Wenger.

With the Arsenal manager signing off after 22 extraordinary years at the club on Sunday, politicians took a break from rowing about customs unions and Brexit to pay tribute to the Frenchman.

The speaker, John Bercow, a fan of the club, even wore an Arsenal tie for the debate on Tuesday evening, while Islington North MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn popped in to say his own words of gratitude.

Jeremy Corbyn and John Bercow

The House heard MPs – four of them at least – revel in Wenger’s successes and lament how some Gunners fans had been mean about him on social media. It all left the government’s sports minister, Tracey Crouch, in an awkward position as she nodded in consensus at the despatch box: she’s a Spurs fan.

Ms Crouch referred to Arsenal as the “second greatest north London club” but added: “You knew what you got with Wenger’s Arsenal: a formidable opposing team that, one way or another, created memories for both sets of fans. So, after 22 years of torture, tactical masterfulness and the temerity to win titles at the ground of their greatest rivals, it will be interesting to see what happens next in the Gunners’ history.”

Wenger managed his last match for Arsenal at Huddersfield on Sunday, the final game in a disappointing season but a trophy-laden managerial career which included three league titles and seven FA Cups.

The unusual topic for a parliamentary debate was brought forward by Huw Merriman, a Conservative MP in Bexhill and Battle.

Tracey Crouch and Anna Turley

“Some have asked why I have time to hold a debate of this type when the trains do not work in my constituency,” he said.

“I say to them that we in parliament have plenty of time during the day to talk about the things that do not work, or could work better, but it is also important for us to celebrate success and the contributions that people make, not when they have left us and gone to the great stadium in the sky, but while they are still ​with us.”

Anna Turley, a former Labour campaigner in Islington who is now MP for Redcar, made sure that the little details of Wenger’s reign were not forgotten, including his commitment to fairness.

“Who could forget that Arsene Wenger offered to replay the game against Sheffield United when Kanu deliberately knocked to ball into the goal, not knowing the rule about passing the ball back to the goalkeeper? Arsene Wenger’s commitment to fair play and to the values of the game, as an inspirational manager and mentor to so many people, are testament to the class of the man.”

Mr Wenger lifting the FA Cup in 2014

To possibly appease her constituents in the north east, she conceded Arsenal had lost to Middlesbrough in their “Invincibles” season.

The debate went on. Mr Corbyn, a committed Gooner who never joined the “Wenger Out” calls despite often being goaded to by journalists, told the House: Through­out the whole time that Arsene Wenger has been manager, he has ensured that Arsenal has made an enormous contribution to the local community. Arsenal in the Community has been very successful for local grounds and clubs all over the borough… He has a wonderful ability to communicate with people of all ages and all footballing abilities.”

The only note of sorrow were those comments about the vitriol Wenger had faced on social media in his final months and years as manager.

The Speaker’s wavy-worded summary of this?

“There is sometimes a tendency for people on social media to volunteer their opinions with an insistence in inverse proportion to their knowledge of the subject matter under discussion.”

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