Tooth­pastey Tracey brings air of virtue to the pro­ceed­ings

Daily Mail - - One Day To Go ... -

YES­TER­DAY’S Gov­ern­ment State­ment about bet­ting shops was de­liv­ered by the games mis­tress – Tracey Crouch, Min­is­ter for Sport. Miss Crouch has been in her po­si­tion for three years and has be­come a re­li­able per­former at the despatch box. She may not quite be top-team ma­te­rial but she does not make many mis­takes.

She came to the House to an­nounce that the max­i­mum stake on fixed-odds bet­ting ter­mi­nals would be re­duced from £100 to £2. Book­ies are aghast at this plan and pre­dict ter­ri­ble job losses. Ev­ery­one else seemed pretty pleased, ar­gu­ing that the so­cial dam­age of gam­bling out­weighed eco­nomic con­cerns.

In­deed, the wel­come Miss Crouch re­ceived on all sides of the Cham­ber made it seem odd that she was re­peat­edly told how brave she had been. But per­haps that tells us how mod­ern pol­i­tics works.

For Labour, Tom Wat­son said ‘this is a great mo­ment’. Small but in­con­ve­nient fact: it was New Labour’s loos­en­ing of gam­bling laws in 2005 that prob­a­bly caused many of to­day’s gam­blin­gad­dic­tion prob­lems. How dis­tant now seems the amoral­ism of the Blair years.

Iain Dun­can Smith (Con, Ching­ford & Wood­ford Green) of­fered Miss Crouch ‘ congratulations’. Ron­nie Cowan – slovenly with hand in pocket and no tie – for the SNP was sim­i­larly de­lighted. Carolyn Har­ris (Lab, Swansea E) started gush­ing ‘thank yous’ to the min­is­ter for do­ing some­thing to re­duce the so­cial dam­age of ma­chines which have cost some gam­bling addicts ‘their houses, dig­nity and self-re­spect’. Nor­man Lamb (Lib Dem, N Nor­folk) called the State­ment ‘a con­sid­er­able per­sonal achieve­ment’ for Miss Crouch ‘that she should be proud of’.

With the only scep­ti­cal noises com­ing from Philip Davies (Con, Ship­ley) and John Whit­ting­dale ( Con, Mal­don), can we re­ally re­gard yes­ter­day’s de­ci­sion to change the max­i­mum stakes on these ma­chines as such a ‘con­sid­er­able per­sonal achieve­ment’?

Would it not be more ac­cu­rate to call Miss Crouch’s move yes­ter­day ‘in­evitable and low-risk’?

Dear read­ers, wel­come to the world of lob­by­ing. The book­ies of Bri­tain are for­mi­da­ble net­work­ers. They at­tend po­lit­i­cal party con­fer­ences and buy an aw­ful lot of drinks. They lean on Cab­i­net min­is­ters. Two years ago al­most a third of fi­nan­cial donations to MPs came from sports and bet­ting firms. Kerch­ing kerch­ing.

So that is what Mr Lamb was pos­si­bly re­fer­ring to: Miss Crouch had over­turned the lob­by­ists’ chara­banc. The sports mis­tress cer­tainly brought an air of virtue to pro­ceed­ings. Miss Crouch is haloed by a tooth­pastey earnest­ness. What a clean-liv­ing, keep-fit sort of per­son she is. It is al­most a sur­prise that she does not turn up on the front bench in a track-suit.

If you think that far-fetched, let it be recorded that on Wed­nes­day the Sec­re­tary of State for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment, Penny Mor­daunt, at­tended PMQs in a rugby shirt bear­ing the logo of UK Aid.


yet, for all her sporty in­cor­rupt­abil­ity, Miss Crouch of­ten seems to have a runny nose. Does she eat enough liver?

She said a ‘sig­nif­i­cant’ fac­tor in her de­ci­sion to go for such a low max­i­mum stake had been her per­sonal meet­ings with prob­lem gam­blers.

There had been talk the Gov­ern­ment might go for a com­pro­mise and lower the fixed-odds stakes to only £30 – this was some­thing Mr Whit­ting­dale raised – but Miss Crouch de­scribed how sev­eral of the gam­bling addicts she met had told her they con­sid­ered com­mit­ting sui­cide, such was their des­per­a­tion. She sounded shaken by this.

John Hayes (Con, S Holland & the Deep­ings) averred that gam­bling is now noth­ing like his fa­ther’s weekly pools coupons.

Bob Seely (Con, Isle of Wight), who is be­com­ing so fu­ri­ously pi­ous a fig­ure that the Bishop of Portsmouth might want to raise his game, com­pared book­ies to par­a­sites. Andrew Selous (Con, SW Beds) zoomed off into or­bit, de­mand­ing that the Gov­ern­ment’s next so­cial cru­sade should be against fast-food ad­verts aimed at chil­dren.

Methodist brim­stone is no longer thought quite the thing in pul­pits but here at West­min­ster we’re only just warm­ing up.

They’ll be calling for plain pack­ag­ing for wine and spir­its next, just you watch.

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