It hurts when you say Doctor, Mawhinney

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The Independent Online
A CONUNDRUM: why do politicians still seek to shore up their credibility by being incredible? On Friday Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Tory party chairman, told listeners to the Today programme that the Stafford South East result showed that the Labour Party's popularity had "peaked" and that the Government would now go on to win the general election, though there was much work "still to be done". Tory party chairmen have been saying similar things, of course, on 34 previous Friday mornings after 34 previous by-election defeats, but here, with a 22 per cent swing to Labour, the second largest since the war, leaving the Government with a majority of one and the threat of an advanced general election, you might have thought that a little honesty and humility would have done Dr Mawhinney no harm and perhaps even some good.

But then the Tory party chairman is a doctor. Not what we call a proper doctor - he has a science PhD from London University - but one of those people who can never forget that they were once touched by the greatness of a post-graduate degree and who insist on the title even though they have long since left their field of study behind. Perhaps they are vain. Perhaps they think it inspires confidence - "Trust me, I'm a doctor". A glance at the recent history of doctor-politicians suggests, however, that this would be unwise:

1) Dr David Owen (proper doctor who qualified at St Thomas's Hospital, London, specialising in the ego); 2) Dr Henry Kissinger (PhD from Harvard in international politics and covert carpet-bombing); 3) Dr Jack Cunningham (PhD in chemistry from Durham, specialising in beneficial effects of nuclear waste); 4) Dr Hastings Banda (another proper doctor, formerly GP on Merseyside, Tyneside and London; Malawians who questioned his later political diagnosis were lucky to be locked up); 5) Dr Ian Paisley (honorary doctorate in divinity and Popish tricks from the Bob Jones University, Alabama); 6) Dr Rhodes Boyson (PhD in Gradgrindism and funny whiskers from the London School of Economics); 7) Dr Radovan Karadzic (qualified in psychiatry and antiseptics, particularly ethnic cleansing); 8) Dr Henrik Verwoerd (a PhD in psychology and white supremacy from Stellenbosch); 9) Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels (qualifications probably lies, whatever they were).

During the Allied advance in Berlin in 1945 it was Dr Goebbels - was it not? - who went to the Fuhrer and told him that the thuds on the bunker roof showed that the Allied campaign had "peaked" and that Germany would win - though, as he later told his six children, handing them their capsules, there was much work still to be done.

RESEARCH disclosed last week in the National Lottery Yearbook (which is not, by the way, published by Camelot but by an independent body called the Directory of Social Change) showed that the common suspicion was correct: it's the rich wot get the gravy, especially if they life in South-east England. The study showed interesting disparities in the distribution of the pounds 1.4bn which has so far been given to "good causes", including in that category (which I'm certain it is, from his wife's point of view) the funding of Winston Churchill Jr's divorce. By the end of last year some of the poorest local authority districts in Britain - Newham, Barking, South Tyneside - had received grants from Lottery funds which worked out, per head of their populations, at pounds 1.10, 90p and pounds 1.78. Meanwhile, the three richest local authority districts - Mid-Sussex, Aylesbury Vale and East Hertford - received pounds 9.02, pounds 9.24 and pounds 16.08. The 5 per cent of England's population who live in its most deprived areas got much less than half their fair share of the grants.

We have, then, some detailed ideas of who receives what. But might it not also be fundamental to our understanding of the Lottery's fairness to identify by social class and area the people who raise the revenue? The money, contrary to the implications of the advertising, doesn't drop from heaven. The punter pays, and I suspect that there are proportionately more punters in Newham, Barking and South Tyneside than in Mid-Sussex, Aylesbury Vale and East Hertford.

That is certainly the American experience. Lotteries started to grow as an instrument of public finance in the United States about 25 years ago. Today 39 states have them and use them to fund social programmes such as education. In 1994, for example, Illinois spent more than $500m from lottery funds on schools. Where does the money come from? Here are some figures taken from an excellent Chicago magazine called The Baffler. In Flossmoor, an affluent Chicago suburb where the average household income is $117,000 a year, households spent an average of $4.48 in lottery tickets. In Posen, a poor suburb where the average household income is $53,000, the monthly average is $91.82.

As Kim Phillips writes in The Baffler, the Illinois Lottery allows the state to raise money almost solely from "poor and working people". Also: "While the Lottery may, in a sense, be rational for the individual, it is clearly irrational for the class

YOU will have noticed that the "News Bunny" from Live TV stood as a candidate in last week's by-election, though you will probably not have watched the coverage on that cable channel itself. Another smart move by station boss Kelvin MacKenzie: what a card he is. So much free advertising at the tiny cost of a lost deposit (and here I am, providing more). At the general election, maybe we can have Jolly Green Giants from the sweetcorn tin, or Mickey selling Disneyland. Does anyone else see something wrong about that?