Bill's Archived Comments

Week beginning Monday, 18th December 2000

National Lottery Awarded (Again) to Camelot

The National Lotteries Board have today announced that Camelot have been awarded the licence to run the National Lottery for the next seven years. This is something of a volte face by the Board (a minor understatement) which, only a few months ago, excluded Camelot from further consideration in favour of The People's Lottery. No doubt Sir Richard Branson and The People's Lottery are disappointed, and perhaps angry, but I hope they will now accept that they have been beaten fairly. The Government came into power saying they wanted a 'non-profit' operator for the Lottery and since then, despite their feeble protestations that they were standing back from the decision, have pretty clearly indicated which bidder they favoured; the decision earlier to exclude Camelot was successfully contested and declared 'unlawful' (imagine it, a so-called national body acting unlawfully!! - and 'inependently'!!) and in the wake of this the then Chairman Dame Helena Shovelton felt constrained to resign, as well she might.

The truth, as I see it, is that the Government's rather clumsy attempts to influence the decision have led their 'minions' (despite their claimed independence) to break the law and they were found out. Camelot, despite the problems with one of their original shareholders and the suppliers of the all-important software, GTech, have more than fulfilled all their commitments - the Lottery was set-up on time and on budget and has had almost no technical problems from the beginning. Chris Smith, Culture Secretary, this evening on Radio 4's PM programme appeared to indicate that he accepts that today's decision is 'fair', but his whole tone was much chastened and much less ebullient than his reaction to Dame Helena's Board's illegal decision - well tough! Another indication of this Government's addiction to spin and style rather than substance and performance. Let's hear no more of The People's Lottery!!

Policing, Crime and Race

My first reaction to William Hague's stance last week was 'here we go again, appealing to the right-wing bigots', but the more I have heard of the reaction from the Government and of Hague's robust responses to the Government's fairly crude attempts to force him into silence, the more I am coming to the conclusion that he does have a point - it is no good the Government accusing him of 'playing the race card' when the reality is that more Police, on the beat, is what is required for the greater safety of residents, of whatever race - a view which seems to be supported by the residents association in the area where the young Damilola Taylor was so appallingly murdered. My hope, however, is that this does not descend into even more of a slanging match between the political parties - the lives and safety of ordinary people are too important and these politicians need to remember this.

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