Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cars and casinos versus cars rather than casinos: the ghost of John Prescott

Vince Cable Sept 11

Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable had a good line in his speech at Liberal Democrat Conference last month: cars, not casinos. The point was that after 13 years of a Labour government sucking up to the financial services sector and letting manufacturing go to the wall, the Coalition has moved us in a new direction in which we support manufacturing. Build cars rather than back the casino activities of the risk-taking bankers (and remember they took risks with other people's money).

Though most Labour members with whom I have conversations seem to believe the 13 years of Labour rule under Blair and Brown never seemed to happen, or have somehow removed those years from their collective memory and conscience, occasional ghosts of their past come back to haunt them and remind them of what they don't want to recall: their 13 years in power. So, a blast from the past today arrived in the form of John Prescott, Labour's very own clowning Cabinet court jester.

British manufacturing may have fared badly under Labour but Prescott did his bit to boost the profile of Jaguar cars. Two Jags Prescott was his nickname. He was also the person responsible for the moves to boost British prosperity by regenerating derelict areas by turning each into a mini-Las Vegas, complete with deregulated casinos. Gambling was the big idea for regenerating Britain under Labour.

Back in 2004, a decision was taken to pack Prescott off to Australia to study how casinos work there. I'm not sure if this was an attempt simply to get rid of him for a while by sending him to the other side of the planet, or was a serious attempt to teach Prescott how to bet, gamble and waste money more effectively. Nevertheless, Junket John arrived Down Under and duely visited restaurants and casinos, complete with taxpayer funder credit card.

His private office managed to spend £456 at the Star City casino in Sydney, £490 at Doyle’s seafood restaurant in Watson’s Bay and £75 at an aquarium. All this has come to light because the Coalition government has decided to publish the details of what's been spent on government financed credit cards.

Labour's plans to turn Britain into Europe's off shore Las Vegas got nowhere, though Labour did a good job at turning us into a banker's casino paradise. Prescott, always something of a hero for many in the Labour party, is something of a Ghost of Labour Past. I wonder what more there is to come out from the publication of Labour's credit card spending.

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