When Tony Blair announced he was slowly going from Westminster to – say it without laughing – bring peace to the middle east, the desperation of traditional UK labourites could be measured by their insistence that now, now the actual labour government could begin. The last decade was just a bad dream.
When Gordon Brown finally prised Cherie off the No. 10 door frame he didn’t disappoint – in that he disappointed, recommitting to the project of bringing democracy to the eight surviving citizens of İraq.
Since then however there has been – if not a seizing of the means of production – at least something resembling politics with content, including an increase in house building.
Top of the list has been the announcement of an immediate review – ie cancellation – of the proposed new supercasino in East Manchester. The Blair government had been spruiking the idea of a network of supercasinos as the answer to – read, substitute for – urban regeneration.
Rank and file and backbench resistance put paid to the idea of 20 supercasinos and got it down to one – with a range of smaller ones scattered round the country.
The debate about casinos got really nasty, really quickly, with casinos supremo minister Tessa Jowell accusing any critics of snobbery and that Labour by standing up for casinos was Labour standing up for its working class roots.
Of course a lot of criticism of casinos is snobbery – but in the UK there are hundreds of mini-casinos all over the place. İf you want to gamble you pay five quid for a one night membership and away you go. They do a solid but unspectacular business – which suggests that no-one was crying out for more roulette wheels.
But most of us recognise that social policy can’t help but consider how it will change social behaviour – and the main aim of supercasinos is to encourage people to gamble by the sheer spectacular force of spectacle and steer money from other spending – live music, etc – that one would suggest is a Better Thing. Plus the other arguments – about tax breaks, bail outs, organised crime etc – went unanswered.
But now Brown has channelled his inner Scottish calvinist and knocked it on the head – based in part on the relentless use of an example of one fine city whose pub and entertainment culture, law and order had been devastated by open slather gambling. The city in question? You guessed it.
Take a bow Melbourne – world’s official gambling cautionary tale.