hutch0 (hutch0) wrote,

two days of news

Well, we're now officially just two weeks away from starting work on our loft conversion and the construction of The Bedroom In The Sky. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of packing and moving to be done and I did some of it last weekend after an RSI-producing week at work, and I put my shoulder out. I went into work on Monday and did some useful stuff, but was in quite a lot of pain. When this all started about twenty years ago, my GP said, "Do you do a lot of typing?" I said, "Yes," and she said, "Stop." Being in a job in which typing plays quite a large part, I had to tell her that this wasn't really an option, so she told me to rest when I got an attack, and take anti-inflammatories. I've usually had to ignore this advice, for various reasons, but last week was pretty bad so I took a couple of days off work and spent them mostly flat on my back, off my face on ibuprofen and marinating in Deep Heat. Hey, it works for me. Until the next time, anyway.
Anyway, so there I was, unable to do much more than watch television - and let me tell you, daytime television in Britain is pretty awful, a concatenation of ancient repeats, Springer-style...(I don't know what the hell you call them, chat shows? Redneck television?) and shows like Murder, She Wrote and Diagnosis Murder, punctuated by adverts for insurance and personal loans. I did discover that it's only possible to watch The Jeremy Kyle Show through the gaps between your fingers. It makes Jerry Springer look like something scripted by Beckett.
So I stuck the rolling news on and sort of half-dozed, half-woke up through it, and while I did...

Tuesday morning was actually quite amusing. The government is granting licences for casinos, and there has been an enormous amount of bidding from various cities for the right to have Britain's only `super-casino.' A super-casino does, as the saying goes, what it says on the tin. It is a very big casino and the stakes, if you'll excuse the expression, are very high. Whoever got it could expect around £250 million in investment and the creation of about two and a half thousand jobs - theoretically, it would be an engine of regeneration in a run-down area.
Anyway, the two front-runners for the site were Blackpool and the Millennium Dome in Greenwich and, confident that one of the two would get it, both Sky and News 24 deployed correspondents to do live reports from the winning site.
Come eleven o'clock, the announcement came, and the winner was...Manchester. Where the only newsteam was a local tv news unit doing a local news story in front of the Town Hall. Even Manchester hadn't expected to get the casino, and were caught on the hop so much that it took a couple of hours for them to arrange a press conference and somebody had to nip to the nearest off-licence to buy champagne to toast their victory.
Now, apart from the not-inconsiderable amusement value of this, I've got to wonder about this casino business. Doesn't it speak to a certain paucity of civic vision that the thing most to be wished for in order to regenerate a town is a casino? Am I alone in being ever so slightly embarrassed about the way Manchester, Blackpool and all those other towns bid for it, as if it was the Olympics? Are our town halls so barren of imagination that they just sit and wait for manna from heaven? I only mention this because of Blackpool's reaction, which reminded me of a kiddie discovering that Christmas had been cancelled, as if the casino had been the only thing standing between the town and doom.
I'm not sure what that £250 million price-tag actually represents, but I'm willing to bet that not all of those 2,500 jobs are going to be exactly highly-paid. I think that, once the thing has been built, the people of Manchester may discover that what they've got isn't an engine of regeneration, but an impossibly-expensive cuckoo.
Surely we're better than this? Just muddling along and hoping that someone will come along and dump a colossal amount of investment in our midst? I found it kind of unseemly. Also I thought it was interesting that all the other casino licences had been granted to towns where you'd least expect anyone to be able to afford to gamble.
And the 24-hour drinking thing crossed my mind and I started to wonder about bread and circuses, but that was probably just me being cynical.
Oh, and Michael Levy was rearrested over the cash-for-honours thing.

Wednesday wasn't quite so amusing, as it brought the arrests in Birmingham over the so-called plot to kidnap a British Muslim serviceman. I was a bit more compos mentis on Wednesday, so I was able to follow events and I found myself thinking that, like the Suffolk murders late last year, it did the media little credit. Partly I think the blanket coverage was just an artifact of 24-hour rolling news, which is a hungry beast. I forget who it was who said that hell is other people, but he was wrong; hell is a 24-hour news channel on a slow news day. So I guess the media circus in Birmingham was understandable on that level, but on all other levels - common decency, for instance - it was not. At time of writing the arrested suspects still haven't been charged, and at time of writing the police still haven't confirmed the `kidnap plot.' All we have is a massive wave of arrests which, as we saw in Forest Gate last year, does not guarantee convictions.
The most poignant thing I heard on Wednesday - and I give due credit to Sky News for not only screening it live but screening it in later replays - was the father of one of the arrested men, quoted by a family friend in an interview, who said, "When my son is cleared of this, will the media come here and report it?"

Oh, and we discovered that Tony Blair had been reinterviewed by the police over the cash-for-honours thing on Friday but the police had wanted it kept quiet for `operational reasons,' raising the delicious possibility that Blair actually grassed up Michael Levy. Risky, as Lord Levy almost certainly knows some stuff the Party wouldn't want made common knowledge.

Casinos, mass-arrests, media frenzy in Birmingham, policemen arresting Lords and interviewing Prime Ministers. It is the End-Time for New Labour. Rapture's coming. We will dance on the grave of The Project and curse ourselves for ever electing this band of fools and the Britain Gordon Brown inherits will not be the Britain Tony Blair inherited in 1997. I think Brown will win the next general election - the Tories are still not quite credible and the Lib-Dems (and my constitutionally Lib-Dem heart goes out to them) have a long way to go - but his majority will be shot to hell, so when he takes over from Tony he'll only have a short while to make the most of the majority he does have. So we can expect a short honeymoon and then a lot of stuff, very little of which will be fun.

And that, Best Beloved, is what I did when I was poorly this week.

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