Going down

23 April 2006

Tony Blair, in today’s Observer:

I would widen the police powers to seize the cash of suspected drug dealers, the cars they drive round in, and require them to prove they came by them, lawfully. I would impose restrictions on those suspected of being involved in organised crime. In fact, I would generally harry, hassle and hound them until they give up or leave the country.

Note the word suspected. Not convicted. So much for innocence. I wonder if the new shiny police powers will be used against, say, this man, who is suspected of money laundering. From what the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman had to say, on March 1, the intention is clear:

Asked repeatedly if the Prime Minister believed Tessa Jowell’s assertion that the money had not come from Prime Minister Berlusconi, the PMOS said that answering the question would mean him getting drawn into the Italian investigation which he was obviously unable to do. He reminded journalists of the importance of keeping the two issues he had outlined earlier separate. He underlined the fact that, in this country, it was important for us to observe the same standards of justice in relation to a foreign case as we would expect in a domestic case. That meant maintaining the tradition that someone was innocent unless proven guilty.

You’re a suspect. My mate is innocent. Remember that difference.

Of course, there’s another case of allegedly nefarious behaviour doing the rounds, but luckily in this case there is no need for the police to seize the funds in question; the creditors are doing that job instead:

Two businessmen have demanded immediate repayment of their secret loans to Labour, threatening financial crisis for the party. The formal demands, for a sum totalling at least ?1.5m, will necessitate a fire sale of the party?s London headquarters to pay the debts.

The more it goes on, the more it seems the Labour Party is like an amalgam of every badly-run football club in history. The story fits so neatly: A long-supported but flagging institution is taken over by a flash individual who promises brighter times ahead for all. Initially, all looks well – though fans have reservations over the change in the team’s colours, there are some new signings, they start winning again. As time creeps by though, the honeymoon fades and the early achievements are soon forgotten in favour of more regrettable ones. The chairman comes to dominate the club, taking personal control of every part of its business. Unpopular decisions alienate the fans; he takes their support for given without ever considering their views; when a few start to protest, he responds by adding electric fences to the stands. With attendances low, he ramps up the prices and tries wooing the rich to use the executive boxes, or by setting up sponsorship deals with anyone, regardless of ethics. More fans desert the club; some even set up their own new clubs in response. Meanwhile, temporarily bolstered by the injection of new cash, the chairman wastes it on ridiculous signings that do nothing to help the club’s long-term future or assuage its now serious debt problem.

Labour have now reached the “mortgaging the club’s ground on future gate receipts, as the creditors start knocking on the door” stage; something which usually coincides with relegation and calling in the administrators, or alternatively, touting the club around wealthy Russian benefactors. Or, in a few heartening circumstances, the club is taken back by its supporters; it realises the dichotomy between success and its principles is a false one, sorts its finances out with a long-term sustainable plan, and starts anew; winning things while regarding its support base as a valuable asset that should be nurtured, not a resource to be plundered. But that depends on the supporters realising that the long-term problems afflicting them will not go away until they form a viable alternative, and them coming to terms with the fact that going along with the current guy in charge is only going to lead to further misery.


6 Responses

OK, I’d agree with most of that, but the references to electric fences and Russian benefactors – do I detect the ‘inner Arsenal fan grimly aware of the distinct possibility of playing in the Uefa Cup next season’ starting to show itself?

Come back when you win the Double, Ben. :-)

On a more serious note, my comments were fair. Ken Bates mismanaged both Chelsea (on the eve of the sale to Abramovich, they were ?80m in debt and days away from going into administration) and the Wembley Stadium project; his many dealings are dealt with very well in Tom Bower’s Broken Dreams (as are those of George Graham at Arsenal).

In his defence, Ken did have a way of taking the piss out of Sir Alex that, to this day, remains unrivalled. (This may, admittedly, have been his sole redeeming quality as a person.)

As far as Chelsea went, I personally think it was more gambling than mismanagement – Bates’ nearly bankrupting the club with expensive signings led to Champions League qualification one season, which was almost certainly the reason Abramovich bought the club. As for Wembley, it would have been most un-British if it hadn’t been such a huge screw-up. Arguably.

It wasn’t (only) the expensive signings that near-bankrupted the club, but the vast redevelopment of Stamford Bridge and Bates’s high-minded “Chelsea Village” hotel & restaurant complex, which was very expensive (and compromised the capacity of SB) but never brought in the required revenue. Bates tried the same plan for Wembley, although after he left the project most of his proposals were cut out; one decision he made that was not undone, however, was the appointment of Multiplex as building contractor.

Incidentally, a few miles across London, a 60,000-capacity stadium is being delivered for half the cost of Wembley, while it is on budget, on time and properly financed. So not every British construction project is necessarily a failure…

Meh. Chelsea Village might have worked better if the ground was actually in Chelsea. Anyhow, those uncertain days are all behind us, and we have a great new, non-bankrupty sort of owner* who isn’t going to relocate us to Novosibirsk as I, at first, feared he might.

I will, of course, concede that you’re going to have a very impressive stadium. And you’re probably going to win the Champions League. There, I’ve said it.

*This ‘keeping political ideology and football loyalties seperate’ lark really works a treat.

Amy

Would anyone like to help me start a magazine called The Harry, Hassle and Hound?