Thursday, July 12, 2007

Charity Begins At Home ...and legacies fade first where least substantial

Gordon Brown hinted at a decision today, its a generally popular one, at any rate it is with core Labour supporters, with regeneration experts [and indeed inexperts] and with sane human beings everywhere. Supercasinos may just be getting dropped.

Gambling policy as a whole is being reviewed and recent controversial enabling legislation along with the regional casinos it was to enable may go too.

However for all the goodwill this ghost of a decision, this, mayhap, hint of a policy shift, is getting, we have to note that it has not been taken yet. Which is a worry, because dollars, many many dollars, will even now be starting to be spent in lobbying and PR firms on reversing it.

But fear not, Gordon is firm and he may just decide to prove that in one area at least he is not a Blairite, by keeping his hand out of the till that Bernie Ecclestone, Philip Anschutz, Lakshmi Patel, the Brothers Hinduja, Lord Browne, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Lord Sainsbury all shut Tony Blair's begrimed party and corporate [ergo national] paws in.

For many people, influential well-informed people, this policy had been the final straw.

At one and the same time a reminder of the very first things to go wrong with 'whiter than white' Blairite probity in public office, and equally the ultimate expression of policymakers lost in the corporate funhouse, as befuddled as the tame business unions brought to Manchester to persuade the local TUC that a deal could be done to remove the danger of competition from cheap, un-unionised, immigrant labour.

Manchester's ambition and potential was to be prostituted by locally accented croupiers; the whores might come from eastern europe or Somalia but they were, in the current legislative environment, outwith the regulatory framework to be administered by the 'family-friendly' US conglomerates bidding to do in Manchester what back home they would need an Indian reservation to get away with.

Maybe, just maybe, if Gordon Brown sticks to his apparent policy shift and kills Jowell's bloated pig of a policy to tax the poor and call the moral degredation of licensing policy a form of urban regeneration, he has drawn a line in the sand.

Maybe, just maybe, his charity toward the predilections and aspirations of the core voters who can keep him in power in two years time marks the start of something genuinely new; rather than just a gesture to buy a hundred days of poll ratings to be squandered come the winter.

On the positive side Gordon posited 'regeneration' as an alternative to super-casinos. An industry heaved a huge sigh of relief. For over a year frustration has mounted over the idea that it is necessary to explain to GOVERNMENT that a super-casino is not a regeneration option in any traditional sense. Not least because it exists purely to draw money out of the local economy and can economically survive only as long as it does so on a massive scale and because its business model is based on maintaining the maximum possible separation from surrounding retail and leisure infrastructure to avoid 'revenue bleed'.

If Gordon's apparent common sense take on gambling legislation - and indeed on expanding the supply of affordable housing - is a sign of things to come, he may just convince a cynic or two and persuade a few voters that New Labour is not so utterly amoral and compromised by power that it might just be time to give the Tories a go. He only needs to do a bit of that to survive. Cameron, after all, is just Blair as Mr Punch - and that is not a show many will yet pay to watch on primetime.