Grant Woodward: Dirty Leeds tag is out of date

Fans clash in Austria. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Fans clash in Austria. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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NO surprise there then. Leeds United’s pre-season tour to Austria has been marred by violence.

Running battles were fought between rival fans near the picturesque town of Salzburg as police made 25 arrests.

You can hear the tuts and sense the sneers now. Disgraceful. Animals. Dirty Leeds all over again.

Except hold on. Look at the pictures. How come the Eintracht Frankfurt supporters were wearing balaclavas as they punched and kicked the Leeds fans and chased them round the pitch?

Do they just carry the headgear round as a force of habit? I know Austria’s famous for its skiing but surely it’s not that parky in the middle of July is it?

Or could it be, perish the thought, that they had them because they knew it was all going to kick off?

In other words, this was an ambush. Pure and simple. Even the police say so.

The fact is the stereotype of Leeds fans being little more then a bunch of nasty hooligans spoiling for their next scrap is hopelessly out of date.

The latest breakdown of the football banning orders dished out per club shows Leeds had 52 in a year.

Yes, that’s still too many – but it’s a long way short of Newcastle’s 127, the 93 picked up by Cardiff, Chelsea’s 91 and the 72 handed to Millwall.

So let’s be careful not to lay the blame for the Salzburg scuffle on United fans.

Leeds may be nowhere near as good as they were in the glory days, but at least their fans are a whole lot better.

Video: Leeds United in Austria - 25 arrests made amid scenes of violence: Click here to watch

Could Britain become a Corbyn copy of Greece?

IT’S stick or twist time for Labour. Does it continue with its Tory-lite policies that were a ticket to oblivion at the last election?

Or does it re-embrace socialism by electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader – and earn a ticket to oblivion for the next one?

Post-Miliband, Labour is caught between a rock and a hard place.

It’s also in the throes of an identity crisis, with a widening rift between those who see salvation in a return to Blairism and those who want to ape the anti-austerity dogma of the Scottish nationalists.

Tony Blair himself warned this week that Labour has “rediscovered losing”, as a poll put left-winger Corbyn ahead in the leadership contest.

But the problem for Labour is that Ed Miliband’s essentially watered-down take on Conservatism didn’t work either.

It’s why a YouGov poll predicts that in the final round of voting in the Labour leadership election, Corbyn would win on 53 per cent, six points ahead of Andy Burnham.

Among party supporters the gulf looks even greater, with Corbyn the preferred option for 43 per cent of party supporters – way ahead of Burnham on 26 per cent, Yvette Cooper on 20 per cent and Liz Kendall on 11 per cent.

Essentially, the Labour rank-and-file figure it’s go for broke time.

The only snag is that while they may be hankering after a return to their socialist roots, there’s little to suggest the rest of the country particularly want to follow suit.

Corbyn’s supporters argue that his promised war on austerity is just what low and middle-earners are looking for.

But that ignores the fact that scores of traditional Labour voters defected to the Tories because they feared a post-election link-up with the SNP – a party built on that very same anti-austerity platform.

And there’s Labour’s problem in a nutshell. When it tries to occupy the middle ground it’s out-Toried by the Conservatives, who are reaping the rewards of a perceived economic credibility that Labour, post-recession, simply doesn’t have.

Yet there’s no real sign to suggest that the country at large would get behind the polar opposite in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn either.

The one thing you can say about Corbyn – the 21st Century’s answer to Michael Foot, minus the donkey jacket – is that no one can be in any doubt what he stands for.

If he became Prime Minister tomorrow he would end austerity, scrap tuition fees and renationalise the railways along with utilities such as gas and electricity.

The party would officially support nuclear disarmament, the reunification of Ireland, a profound shift in foreign policy and a radical redistribution of tax.

If some of that sounds familiar, the reason is that those big economic policies were pretty much the bedrock of the manifesto which swept Syriza to power in Greece.

And all those who hoped that Alexis Tsipras’s crusade against austerity would show the rest of the world how to do it have instead seen him forced to eat humble pie in return for another bail-out.

Over here, that failure and the still fragile state of the British economy means many are likely to think Corbyn’s idealism – however well-intentioned – is just too big a gamble.

Still, at least Jeremy Corbyn is a man of principle who is clear about what he believes and isn’t afraid to kick back against the prevailing neoliberalism emanating from all sides of the political spectrum.

The same can’t be said of his rivals for the leadership – who may insist they have clear water between them but really the differences are slight rather than seismic.

And that’s Labour’s dilemma. The one convincing candidate they have for their party’s leadership hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of becoming Prime Minister. But then nor do any of the others.

At times like this, perhaps, they may as well choose the go-for-broke option.

After all, at least it will be something different.

We’ll miss the plastic police

PLASTIC police. Hobby bobbies.

The jibes against Police Community Support Officers came thick and fast when they were brought in by then Home Secretary David Blunkett more than a decade ago.

But PCSOs have seen their stock go up in recent years – not least because for a public starved of bobbies on the beat, they provide a reassuring presence.

So it’s a worry that a question mark hangs over the future of the near 300 PCSOs who currently pound the streets of Leeds.

Government cash runs out next March and it’s unclear how they will be funded.

Even those who think they’re useless might change their minds if they start disappearing.

As one PCSO put it: “I’m sorry if people feel we’re a waste of time. Are we a waste of time when we move the lads kicking your fence in or being cheeky to you?”

Good point, well made.

‘Beat bobbies’ in Leeds and West Yorkshire ‘could be scrapped completely’: Click here for full story