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In praise of the National Lottery

August 5, 2012

It’s Sunday lunchtime and at the mid point of the London Olympics Team GB is 3rd in the medals table.  We’re on course to exceed our Beijing tally.  But we’ve already secured more medals than the final score at Sydney, Atlanta, Barcelona and Seoul.  We’ve matched the Athens final result from eight years ago. Atlanta 1996 was the low point, with Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent our only (joint) gold medal winners. Great Britain came a humiliatingly 36th in the overall medals table.  Our final position from Seoul to Athens was in the range 13th to 10th.

So what accounts for the dramatic recovery?   Is it the demise of the Soviet Union? Or the rest of the old Warsaw Pact, East Germany used to be a medals giant.  Partially, though the rise of China more than cancels out that relative advantage to us.  Have we become a nation of super fit citizens?  No!  But we have definitely seen a dramatic shift in the performance of our sporting elite, across all sports.  In some sports this must be due to a switch to professionalism.  This gave more money from TV rights and sponsors and better management of sporting careers.  The transformation of Welsh rugby in the last decade is an obvious and welcome example to me!  But most sports aren’t major commercial earners so need investment from elsewhere.  And that’s where the National Lottery has made a huge difference.

Since its foundation in late 1994 the National Lottery has poured billions into the “good causes” of arts, heritage and sport.  Charities and community groups get the most benefit.  When John Major introduced the Lottery he saw it as a stable source of extra funding for culture and sport, never a top priority for national or local government.  I’ve bought a lottery ticket every week since then, seeing it as a form of voluntary extra taxation for a more civilised society.  Unfortunately, I’ve only ever won the occasional tenner but I don’t see my weekly £2 as a gamble.

Since 1994 we have seen a a renaissance in British culture and sports.  The biggest change has been in capital investment. New art galleries and museums have been founded or refurbished.  In Bristol our fabulous M Shed Museum of Bristol could not have happened without the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Lottery funds also made possible the final restoration of the SS Great Britain and the acquisition of Tyntesfield, the home of a rather more wealthy Bristol West MP than me.

Sport England has also invested huge amounts in national coaching centres and local clubs.  I recently presented a Sport England cheque to the Bristol Sailing Club.  But the Lottery has probably made the biggest difference to our sporting standards by investing in the development of athletes, enabling them to concentrate on their sport, supported by professional coaching.  It’s been noticeable how many of our medal winners, in their post victory breathless interviews, have thanked their coach, physio and all the other professional support that backs them up.

So, John Major, shame about your sleazy colleagues.  Pity you didn’t leave us at “the heart of Europe” or leave our trains under state control.  Let’s forget the cones hotline.  But thank you for the National Lottery.  And enjoy the Olympics, from a well deserved ring side seat.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. politicsmatt permalink
    August 5, 2012 4:33 pm

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Great blog

  2. rosemary permalink
    August 6, 2012 12:54 pm

    The trains were broken up as they were because of EU regulation on monopolies. The EU would like to do the same to the Cal Mac ferries monopoly in the Western Isles. We must make sure that never happens.

    “Sleaze” was recoined as a word by Robin Cook and Peter Mandelson to bring the conservatives down. A tragedy for the country and certain other parts of the world that it worked.

    Hear, hear on the Olympic bit. How about saying thank you to Jeremy Hunt too?

    • rosemary permalink
      August 6, 2012 2:48 pm

      PS in their very first week in power Messrs Mandelson and Brown changed the law on the lottery so they could raid it for routine government expenditure on health and education. That is why our concert hall in the Harbourside was spiked. The electorate was so high on their victory that they never even noticed.

      • John Yapp permalink
        August 6, 2012 3:51 pm

        I regret too that our Concert Hall was wiped, a great mistake! Instead we have that garbled mess in Colston street! I echo your praises on the Olympics’, good to have a pleasurable item instead of the usual abominations.

      • August 6, 2012 5:07 pm

        Rosemary – not sure you are right on the political genesis of rail privatisation! Unlikely that the Major Govt, with all its twists and turns on the EU, would have cited the EU as a reason for privatisation. Besides, what about state owned SNCF or Deutche Bahn?

        But you are right on the lost Centre for Performing Arts. I was a councillor at the time and a member of the bid committee. We were certain of the award (about £90 million from memory) for the “exploding greenhouse” design of the CPA. But it was cancelled at the last minute, just as Lord Gowrie as Chair of the Arts COuncil was going to announce it. The reason was indeed the diversion of Lottery funds away from the original “good causes” towards other local schemes, which should have been part of ordinary local govt grants. There was certainly a need to address the impression that the Lottery showered millions on ill conceived projects (pop music museum or the “earth centre” spring to mind) at the expense of small, less glamorous schemes. BUt a new concert hall for Bristol did not fall into that category.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 6, 2012 6:45 pm

        Sorry Stephen, I should have expanded the point: the privatisation itself was not due to EU regulation, but the way in which is was done was. The track, for instance had to be separately owned and run; and no-one was allowed to own a full stretch.

        As is so often the case, neither party in government was open about why this happened, not even when we had all that controversy over Railtrack and Network Rail. Perhaps that is why even you are a bit vague about it all now.

        The EU regulation gets us either way: partly under the competition rules and partly under the state subsidy rules.

        You as a Welshman should be particularly sensitive about the rule that everything has to go out to tender EU wide, so that our home industry and engineering are then done down. This happens in local government expenditure all the time, which is why our public gardening was taken over by SITA, a French refuse company, and then by a Dutch company.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 6, 2012 6:55 pm

        PS it is worth remembering that Mrs Thatcher was against the Lottery because it encouraged poor people to gamble, and against privatisation of the railways. Nicolas Ridley had advised her on the latter, saying it was a privatisation too far, and I think he was as right on that as he was on the EU.

        He was sacked, if you remember, for saying there would one day be fighting in European streets over the single currency, because the politicians in the affected nations would not be able to do what was necessary to prevent mass unemployment and poverty.

      • rosemary permalink
        August 6, 2012 7:45 pm

        The French and German railways are allowed to continue with their subsidised monopolies because of something called a derogation which can be applied for. I don’t know whether they made a formal application because in practice these two countries can do what they want under the EU rules. We should do the same.

  3. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 6, 2012 3:40 pm

    What has struck me is how, not only thanking those you mention, but how so many have thanked their families. People take up sport long before there is a coach or a physio etc. involved, and my experience is those lucky enough to have family backing, both financial and time, have the best chance to succeed. If the £11 billion is infact to deliver the legacy promised, it must concentrate on the young and give everyone of them the chance to shine. Sadly, I don’t see this likely, but lets hope I’m wrong.

    • August 6, 2012 5:11 pm

      I agree that a supportive family is vital – all those weekend trips to training! Hopefully a large part of the Olympic legacy will be more take up of sport by people just for the pleasure and personal fitness. Most of us can keep fit and healthy, few of us can aspire to medals!

  4. Peace Handovsky permalink
    August 7, 2012 11:25 am

    For me, we should tax the rich and big business, not rely on the poor wasting their money on lottery tickets to fund our public services, arts, sports etc.. Or maybe increasing inequality in our society is the aim?

  5. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 8, 2012 9:06 am

    Did you watch Newsnight last night? Games won on a claim of diversity and being inclusive. Looks like these can join legacy in the box marked “bullshit”.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 8, 2012 6:52 pm

      Paul, I was enraged by Newsnight last night. Instead of basking in the glorious fun and unity of the Games like the rest of us, there were surly and grudging complaints that immigrants in the East End of London can’t do dressage or sail. So it was suggested these “elitist” sports and others like them should be dropped from the Olympics. Instead, the ball games of the third world slums should be adopted.

      Well, I have news for Mrs Wark. Tens of millions of us native English can’t do dressage or sail. Furthermore, many of our tennis courts and sports fields have been built on. Even our ice rink in Bristol is going. And where are the public baths in Bristol that there used to be?

      It is different up in Mrs Wark’s Scotland, but here in Southern England the population is 3 times the size it ought to be, and rising. That has not been discussed by the BBC, and they have stifled any discussion elsewhere, saying it is racist to want the naturally falling population we could have had and that would ahve been sustainable. The Green Party never mentions population either.

      And please don’t anyone say the British are racist. Together with the Portuguese, they are the most tolerant and easy going people in the world, and they are happily misegenating. But these islands cannot go on absorbing unlimited millions of extra people, and too many of their indigenous youth are becoming a serious worry because of the competition from better educated people coming in.

      No, Mrs Wark and your team, it is not just the immigrants in the East End of London who have not got proper facilities for taking exercise and playing sport. But our cramped and noisy lives down here in England are greatly cheered by seeing our young athletes excelling. They are indeed an elite, and we are proud of them. THey are ours, and it feels good that they are winning for a change. So, Mrs Wark and co: Just rejoice at this happy situation we are in at the moment, and make the most of it.

      The Left promised us riots and a general strike, as well as chaos in London and at the airports. Perhaps that is why the unpatriotic elements in the BBC are miffed.

  6. Paul Bemmy Down permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:20 am

    Hi Rosemary. On Sky news, on the announcment of the population figures, Jeff Randall asked his guest (?) surely there has been a democratic deficit here. When have the British people ever been asked about immigration? The answer should of course been never. You say we are tolerant. I find that most people I talk to, those I know, and I know lots from all backgrounds, and those I meet casually, anywhere, including Stephens country, don’t take long to get around to this subject. I think you confuse tolerance with acceptance that those with power, havn’t got the guts to do anything about it, for fear of the “r” word.

    • rosemary permalink
      August 10, 2012 10:18 am

      Yes, Paul, I too find that whatever topic of conversation I have raised, the other party quickly works in the consequences of the disastrous policy of uncontrolled immigration. And the most surprising people are doing this now – not just the clergy, and immigrants themselves, but even liberals and socialists! This is a startling change that has come about: no-one now is frightened of introducing the topic, not even among stangers. Like Leonora’s prisoners, they have emerged into the sunshine, and they are now liberated from the dark days of mass censorship.

      So what are the politicians going to do about it?

      • rosemary permalink
        August 10, 2012 10:21 am

        One politician who is taking advantage of this dreadful situation is the Scottish Nationalist leader. He doesn’t need to mention the problem in public, but all Scots know what they are doing in trying to break away from England. They are preserving their national indentity, and conserving their space.

  7. April 29, 2014 4:55 pm

    Great blog..

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