Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Heads you lose, Tails I win...

I don't know if you've ever been to Blackpool, but it's the most depressing place I have ever been. Its the stench that does it - a bouquet of a century of stale chip fat, mixed with fresh Bacardi Breezer chunder, stale sweat and knock-off CKOne. As you come off the M55 it hits you in the gut like a Uruguayan cat curry.

To look at, the place is even worse. Row after row of delapidated boarding houses with sticky carpets and aggressive staff who make Basil Fawlty seem accommodating. The famed "Blackpool illuminations" sum up the town perfectly - the most impressive thing about the place is that it's wired up to the national grid. The Blackpool Madame Tussauds is straight out of The League of Gentleman - random heads on random bodies mean that Bill Clinton is five foot nothing and Chairman Mao looks like he'd take out Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fair fight. And given the half-melted appearance of most of the waxworks, he looks like he's already tried.

Yes, Blackpool is without a doubt the most depressing place I've ever been. And I've been to Detroit.

So the news today that the place has lost out in the race to win Britain's first supercasino couldn't be more fitting. Having planned for over five years on winning the licence, I can only imagine the depression that has gripped the town this afternoon.

Nowhere needed this more than Blackpool. Losing 2% of its returning visitors every year, the area has no industry and no major employer other than the tourist trade. A poll of Blackpool residents over the weekend showed 98% in favour of the development. Plans had been drawn up some years in advance and had been thought through to the smallest detail.

And yet Manchester has won through.


Let's imagine that Blackpool had won and look ten years into the future. The casino is built and the employment and regeneration benefits have come to pass as predicted. Would Labour Ministers look at the new Blackpool and fell justified in the face of all the criticism they faced for its gambling policy?

No. The regeneration of Blackpool through gaming would only have updated what existed already. A cheap and cheerful, slightly seedy weekend resort in easy reach of Scotland and the North of England. A working class resort. Not beautiful, but a bloody good laugh.

All in all, the opposite of what Labour wants from its gambling policy.

Blackpool was doomed from the start. Labour were never going to trust the working class with that level of politically sensitive investment. They couldn't be trusted not to replace Blackpool with Blackpool 2.0 - the same cheeky postcards, strip joints and happy hours, but successful and internationally recognised.

Which is what did for Blackpool. Even if successful, as long as it retained its working class identity, it would be too easily the subject of Daily Mail sneers, too "chav", too "Jade Goody". A fate that couldn't be allowed to befall Labour's flagship casino project.

The decision to place the casino in Manchester also removes the possibility of a true evaluation of the regenerative potential of mass-gambling. Manchester has been regenerating since the mid-90s, through the repopulation of the city centre by the middle class. Ten years from now, who will be able to separate the effects of a new casino in East Manchester from the Sports City development down the road?

It would be a brave soul to predict a middle class influx into Blackpool, even with a Vegas-style casino. For those whose professional reputations relied upon the success of the casino project, a working class casino resort would have been unpalateable - even distasteful.

No, the argument went, better to choose Manchester, a major metropolis where the regenerative benefits are open to argument and fudge, where the donkeys and hen parties are lost in the post-industrial melting of a major city, and where no one class could dominate.

Blackpool was just too uncertain a bet.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Reiding between the lines

John Reid comes in for a bit of flack today. In the Guardian, a self-penned piece does exactly what you'd expect a self-penned piece from John Reid to do: it attempts to shout down his detractors and point out how crap his department is.

Iain Dale sets out a series of
questions that he wants Reid to answer. One of these is "Has Gordon Brown offered you the post of Home Secretary?". Iain Dale is usually quite astute , but I think he's misread the situation here.

Reid's been across the cabinet - his survival skills are well honed. He must therefore know that the real threat he facts is not from within his department; he's successfully implanted the message that the Home Office is "not fit for purpose" and continues today to firefight future fiascos by claiming that these are inevitable.

No, Reid knows that the real threat to his future lies in the post-Blair settlement, and his statements about the Home Office are made with one eye on his position in Brown's first cabinet.

His determination to split the Home Office is part of this. Despite the range of posts he's held previously, he hasn't stayed long in any of them. Health, Defence, Cabinet Office - Reid is the troubleshooter, the bruiser, the roll-up-your-sleeves and get it done strong man. He's not there for the long haul: he doesn't know how. Moreover, he hasn't exactly made many friends at the Home Office. The risk, therefore, is that he'll be left in post by Brown.

This would be a disaster for Reid. He must ask how long it will be before the "not fit for purpose" epithet ceases to be applied to the department and begins to be applied to the minister. Thus he has decided to lobby for the department to be split: rather than captain a cursed ship, he'll scupper it, return to port and wait for another command.

This is a risky strategy: the Home Office is one of the great offices of state, and if Reid wants a promotion, there is only the Foreign Office and the Treasury to aspire to - and Brown has his favoured candidates for both of these.

Before Christmas, Reid was widely tipped as a potential Deputy Leadership contestant. Recently, these whispers have died away (he's now out to 33/1 with Ladbrokes.) He would appear to have let it be known that the Deputy Leadership is not for him.

I wonder why.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Cameron's Observer article - Exclusive early draft

No one will be left behind in a Tory Britain

Especially not my briefcase! Jeeves has it in the Jag

By vigorously promoting equal opportunity and fairness, we will make this a better country for all

David Cameron (Sorry Danny, your name doesn't have the same recognition at the Observer)

The subject of community cohesion, for understandable reasons, has become prominent in our national conversation over the past few years. But it is a challenge we have faced before: the question of how we live together is as old as humanity itself. Throughout history, there have been periods when Britain has not been entirely comfortable with itself or individual communities within it.

Nice and trite to start - like it. Don't want the lefties carking it from a coronary before they get halfway through...

Who would now question the contribution made by Jewish people to British society - or even talk about there being a conflict between being British and Jewish? And yet, only 50 years ago, this was exactly the debate going on in both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. More recently, Britain's Irish community was questioning and being questioned about its loyalty to Britain.

Bloody hell, our lot won't like this. Can we have some more like your other one? Bit worried that we share a definition of "being questioned" with Birmingham CID circa 1974. Also, massive missed opportunity here: this bit's crying out for a nice "cricket test" reference. Ah well, best not bring up embarrassing past episodes - the Ashes were a disaster.

Each time, over time, we have kept our country together by having faith in our institutions and our way of doing things: freedom under the rule of law, a common culture defined by pluralism and tolerance and a distinctively British approach (calm, thoughtful, reasonable) to potentially incendiary issues. The challenge today may have its own specific characteristics, but our approach should be the same. In that context, I am concerned by the direction that the debate on cohesion has taken recently. I believe it is time for a more British approach.

Yes! A More British Approach! They come over here, taking our jobs, taking our approaches... Like it, like it.

First, we must not fall for the illusion that the problems of community cohesion can be solved simply through top-down, quick-fix state action. State action is certainly necessary today, but it is not sufficient. Second, it must be the right kind of action, expressed in a calm, thoughtful and reasonable way.

We've had enough of quick-fix state solutions! We need the state to come up with a new solution! And Quick!

The doctrine of multiculturalism has undermined our nation's sense of cohesion because it emphasises what divides us rather than what brings us together. It has been manipulated to entrench the right to difference (a divisive concept) at the expense of the right to equal treatment despite difference (a unifying concept).

Do you think anyone will notice this is bollocks? I mean, the Human Rights Act entrenches equal treatment, doesn't it? Oh, sorry, we're going to abolish it. Ignore this comment.

But in seeking to atone for those mistakes, we should not lurch, with the zeal of the convert, into a simplistic promotion of 'Britishness' that is neither in keeping with our traditions, nor likely to bring our communities closer together.

Loving this - "traditions" = right wing, "communities" = left wing, "Dave the boy Cameron" = both wings. I'm like Cristiano Ronaldo (without being a lying foreigner, obviously.) (Or a foreigner, anyway)

Yes, we need to ensure that every one of our citizens can speak to each other in our national language. Yes, we need to ensure that our children are taught British history properly. And I do think it is important to create more opportunities for celebrating our sense of nationhood. Unlike Labour, we will set out a clear and consistent path to ensure these things actually happen, starting with our policy review which will make specific recommendations this week.

NEXT WEEK!!? Shit. Have you still got that copy of the 97 election manifesto? We'll be needing that.

But I think we need to go much deeper than this if we are to address the substantial alienation and division that exist in our country today. It's no use behaving like the proverbial English tourist abroad, shouting ever more loudly at the hapless foreigner who doesn't understand what is being said. We can't bully people into feeling British - we have to inspire them.

They do bloody understand you know. There was this chap in Whistler last year who understood every word I said. Still, needs must...

A number of the interventions we have seen from ministers recently have spectacularly failed to do that. Instructing Muslim parents to spy on their children.

Heh heh, "BOO!"

Offending our war heroes with the proposal of a new 'Veteran's Day' when we already have Remembrance Sunday.

"HISS!" Hawhawhaw. Just like Oxford Union this...

Suggesting that we put flags on the lawn.

HAHAHA! "HANG NELSON MANDELA!" Oop, sorry, bit carried away there...

These and similar clunking

Like the dig at Broon, but a bit subtle for the proles this, no? Can't we come up with something better? He's only got one eye you know, there's got to be a gag in that... I'll see what I can come up with.

attempts to address the complexities of community cohesion show a serious misunderstanding of the scale of the challenge, and the shape of the solution. Above all, we have seen a dangerous muddling of concerns: community cohesion, the threat of terrorism and the integration of British Muslims.

Good point this: the threat of the integration of British Muslims bloody terrifies me.

Promoting community cohesion should indeed be part of our response to terrorism. But cohesion is not just about terrorism and it is certainly not just about Muslims. Similarly, promoting integration will help protect our security. But too mechanistic a connection between these objectives will make it harder to achieve both, by giving the impression that the state considers all Muslims to be a security risk.

Which we do, obviously. But we don't want them to think that we do. Nice.

This week's report from our policy review, the product of months of dialogue with Britain's diverse communities,

Glad I sidestepped that one

will seek to disentangle these threads and point a clear and responsible way forward. There will be no shying away from the tough issues: the influence of those who twist faith into ideology; the cultural attitudes that exclude women from mainstream society; the impact of foreign policy on domestic affairs;

I'm going to need a briefing note on Iraq. Are we for it or against it this week?

and, vitally, the divisive effects of the catastrophic failure of state education in many parts of urban Britain.

Bloody right. One of Sam's colleagues got her son into Eton from a state primary! Enrolled into the bally place without paying a penny! I said to her, that's bloody unfair, it cost my mater and pater an absolute packet in prep school fees!

I want the Conservative party to stand for a broad and generous vision of British identity.

Is this about those cards?

In a speech in Birmingham tomorrow, I will argue that questions of social cohesion are also questions of social justice and social inclusion. Cohesion is as much about rich and poor, included and left behind

Good idea for the conference stage banner: "No rich person left behind"

as it is about English and Scot

BOO! Hawhawhaw

or Muslim and Christian. Inspiring as well as demanding loyalty from every citizen will require a new crusade for fairness. A society that consistently denies some of its people the chance to escape poverty, to get on in life, to fulfil their dreams and to feel that their contribution is part of a national effort: such a society will struggle to inspire loyalty, however many citizenship classes it provides.

Bloody hell, bit pink this isn't it? Still, like the cuts in citizenship classes. Should save a few quid.

Fairness will be our most powerful weapon against fragmentation. In America, new immigrants feel part of something from the moment they arrive

Ha! Usually a chain gang! Hahaha

because they feel they have the opportunity to succeed. It is that belief in equal opportunity that we need in Britain today and it is why the denial of quality education to so many is such a vital part of the cohesion argument.

Good point. Absolutely crucial to deny a quality education. The old "don't know what they're missing" ruse.

There is no easy short cut. Having tried to impose democracy in Iraq at the point of a gun, we must surely realise that we will never impose cohesion at home with the ping of a press release.

Do Press Releases Ping? My BlackBerry makes the noise of a pig when I get a text. Can we change "ping" to "grunt" here?

There are serious divisions in our country today. Many thousands - maybe millions - feel shut out, under attack.

Hunters, farmers, Jade Goody, the list goes on... Actually, can we get Jade in Birmingham for the speech on Monday?

Turning the situation around will require patience. We must be calm, thoughtful and reasonable: that is the British way.

Well, not the Scottish way, obviously - that Gordon Brown's a nutter. Or the Welsh way - Neil Kinnock couldn't bloody stop shouting. But the English way anyway. Which is the same thing.

Building cohesion is a social responsibility. Government must enforce the rules of the road -

I feel we could say more about foreign drivers here

speaking English, teaching history, upholding and celebrating the symbols of nationhood - and we will be absolutely clear about what needs to be done. If the government brings forward these measures, they will have our full support.

I've got to say, this is a top wheeze. We can't lose!

But this is about much more than government and politics. We must each do all we can to make this a fairer and more just society - helping others, creating opportunity and ensuring that no one is excluded from it.

Especially Jade Goody.

Lovely stuff Danny, pop round mine for a snifter ;) later.

The First Post

I suppose I should start with a little about me. But I wont. I'll start with a little about what I'm not.

I am not:
An astroturfer
A Labour Party Employee
A member of the cabinet
Sleeping with a member of the cabinet
A seven foot lizard

I realise that is a strange way to start a blog, but stick with me.

My prevarication of choice is reading
Guido Fawkes's blog. If you're not familiar, its a blog written by an "anarcho-capitalist" seeking to bring down... well everything. In particular, he focuses on the scandals surrounding the Labour party, and as a result draws a readership from the right wing in Britain. Guido's comments section is well populated, usually with what I have difficulty in not describing as "frothing at the mouth, swivel eyed tory loons".

Reading their posts, you would have difficulty believing that Britain is not being run by Pol Pot. Until recently, I ignored the comments as I found them too depressing. But then I decided that I wouldn't ignore them any more and decided to start posting my own comments. Since then, I
have been called most of the things in the list above, hence my decision to start my own blog. Not that I'm complaining about Guido's commentators - I do enjoy winding up tories.

If nothing else I hope to show that, if I am a member of the Labour Party's elite Tory nut-job misinformation unit, then I'm not very busy and have the chance to blog on here now and again.

Which I probably won't. Ah well.