The Dome was cack, pure and simple, but the Tories still can't nail them

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The Independent Online

Some Middle Eastern politicians ­ and they're no better there than they are here ­ were explaining the benefits of their dam-building programme to an American banker. They said they were creating employment. "Oh! I thought you were creating dams," the banker said. "If it's employment you're creating you should take away those mechanical diggers and give the workers shovels."

Some Middle Eastern politicians ­ and they're no better there than they are here ­ were explaining the benefits of their dam-
building programme to an American banker. They said they were creating employment. "Oh! I thought you were creating dams," the banker said. "If it's employment you're creating you should take away those mechanical diggers and give the workers shovels."

The Government uses the Middle Eastern defence for the Dome. The thing may have been a flop as a tourist attraction but, they say, it's responsible for a cinema being built in Greenwich, for a hotel with 162 beds and for roads going in and out of the borough. People can go there now, and they can also get out. A billion sterling may seem a lot for a road, a hotel and a cinema (the technical term is inner-city regeneration, incidentally) but as it was a government project we should be glad the bill wasn't higher.

Another advantage emerged yesterday during Culture, Media and Sport questions. We're no longer paying £1m a month to keep the thing open. It's a fraction of that. Six-tenths, actually. A month.

And who is to blame? The Tories, of course. When prompted, the junior minister rehearsed the Tories' involvement in the Dome. The whole concept originated with the Conservatives. Its location was their decision. The original chairman and chief executive were Conservative appointees. The use of lottery money to support the project was decided by the previous government. The corporate structure was the decision of the previous government. And the role of the shareholder was created under the previous government.

This is desperate stuff. The Dome was a failure because it was cack. The content was monstrously inoffensive. Private entertainment parks give us death slides and virtual reality flights into a dinosaur's mouth.

The Dome had all the panache of a wet Monday afternoon with the Culture ministers (where we also learnt that the Jazz Development Trust is enjoying a funding uplift of 27.5 per cent, rising to a 135 per cent increase by 2003).

The Tories say that in terms of general uselessness and unpopularity the Dome is the perfect symbol for New Labour. They may be right in principle, but in practice
the comparison forces us to wonder two things.

First. Uselessness. How is it that the Opposition ­ despite several bungled sale processes, the disgusting conflicts of interest, the trading while insolvent, and the blubbery presence of Lord Falconer of Thoroton ­ has utterly failed to nail the Government on the issue?

Second. Unpopularity. Remind
us who is 20 points behind whom
in the polls?

The foot-and-mouth epidemic has provided a better illustration of government in action. Filth, waste, confusion, mendacity and death ­ on a scale that even the NHS cannot compete with ­ are the characteristics of this Government in action on FMD. But then, in the history of modern life these are the characteristics of every government.

That seems to be Labour's other defence. To blame it on the Tories. Visitor numbers are disastrously down, the tourist industry is in tatters, £5bn has dropped out of the economy, businesses are going under for lack of emergency loans, and Chris Smith blames it on the Conservatives.

Note: We learnt that Ilford in Essex spends £759 a head on lottery tickets. They are complaining that they only get £30 a head back in "good causes" grants.

The lottery is a tax. A voluntary tax paid only by people who are bad at maths. There's no reason for anyone to suppose they'd see a penny back in any form whatever.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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