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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gala Dinner

I was at the annual gala dinner of the Association of British Bookmakers last night - another emotional (for the audience) speech from Kieren Fallon protesting his innocence and much lobbying of the local Councillors present by the larger bookmaking firms seeking planning permission for their proposed new betting shops. I didn't spot Fran Ferris, though. Not surprisingly his popularity had plummeted a bit after confessing to having ridden in 200 fixed races.

The Town Hall Casino and Dog Racing ParlourI was approached by a very nice chap from Corals who wanted to talk to me about the article I posted back in February in which I revealed the plans for redevelopment of the Old Town Hall into a betting shop.

The chap wanted to assure me that, contrary to my earlier story, there was nothing funny going on between Ladbroke Coral and its arch-rival Victor Chandler despite the fact that their agents shared a common address in Wigmore Street. "Space is at a premium in the West End", he assured me, "we just all pack into whatever office space is available".

He explained that this office space problem was the reasons that meetings often took place in Andalucia and wondered casually whether I had ever held any of my ward meetings there. When I told him about my apartment in Comp├ęta he seemed quite surprised. "So you've been around a while", he commented. I have no idea what he meant.

The chap (who asked to remain anonymous) seemed highly amused by Julian Pipeshaft's open opposition to a new betting shop in Chatsworth Road. "How come he's suddenly so opposed to gambling" the chap asked me, "when he was quite happy for Hackney Council to sell the freehold of The Old Town Hall to a property development company a few years back so they could subsequently lease the building as a major branch of Corals? I confessed that I didn't have any idea. I was starting to feel uncomfortable when he raised the subject of Councils selling off municipal properties for £1 and asked whether a gentleman's leisure retail facility fell within the scope of such community deals. When he subsequently enquired as to whether St. Augustine's Tower might be available for a similar purpose and suggested that we could do some serious business with property that had been "mislaid" by the Diocese of London, I was a bit embarrassed and changed the subject.


Not protesting - just kissing babiesThat led us into a discussion of the more interesting news (at least from the standpoint of Hackney residents like myself). "Who is going to win the Labour Deputy Leadership race?" I asked. Not, of course, that I expected a bookmaker to have any idea about such things. To be honest, I'd expect far more sensible opinions from people logging onto my spoofster's blog. But I humoured him anyway as he revealed the following odds:

Alan Johnson 2/1, Harriet Harman 3/1, Hilary Benn 7/2, Hazel Blears 6/1, Peter Hain 6/1, Jon Cruddas 8/1.

I hope Peter Hain didn't think I was being facetious the other day when I congratulated him on his strong challenge - I just didn't realise how weak his position was ...

I asked my chap from Corals what he thought of Hazel Blears' chances, pointing out to him the large number of MPs who had filled in their nomination papers in support of my little chipmunk. I can't remember the exact phrase he used, but it was something to do with ante-post betting and setting artificial prices by backing a no-hoper before coming in with a much larger stake on the likely winner later on. To be honest, I didn't really understand what he was on about.

At this point my new friend sidled off to the loos and while he was gone another chap tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself as being from William Hill. "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation", he said, looking me up and down as if assessing my likely voting intentions, "I hope you don't mind, but I can do you better odds than Ladbrokes on Hilary if you are interested". Despite my protestation that I had no interest in backing Mr Bean Mr Benn, the chap thrust a card into my hand with the following odds printed on it:

Harriet Harman 4/1, Hilary Benn 9/2, Alan Johnson 9/2, Peter Hain 5/1, Hazel Blears 7/1 and Jon Cruddas 15/2.

I came to some pretty firm conclusions from all this:

  • Benn is going absolutely nowhere
  • Cruddas is not making any traction
  • Harman is getting a huge push by core Brownites but this won't improve her chances
  • Johnson is going backwards (from 3/1 to 2/1 with Corals and 5/1 to 9/2 with Hills)
  • Blears is odds on to win.

1 comment:

Julian Pipeshaft said...

OK, so I made a mistake selling it off to property developers. Give a chap a break will you? We're all entitled to make mistakes. Even a God like me.