The Millennium Dome Bombing Saga

 

MD News
Summer b Friday 01/09/2000
MYSTERY BIDDER REVEALED
Sir Tom Todhunter
Photo: Tim deLong
The mystery millionaire bidder for the Millennium Dome is now believed to be Sir Tom Todhunter, the Eighties asset-stripper, who has formed a consortium to buy the stricken "National Treasure". Now a Jersey resident, his fortune has been estimated by various sources as between 180M and 430M. If Sir Tom could afford to buy the Dome on his own, any bid by his consortium has a correspondingly increased credibility.
   The identification of the leader of the consortium has led to a great deal of finger-pointing by opposition parties as Sir Tom Todhunter has 'entertained' at least three cabinet ministers at his homes in Jersey and the Bahamas on a regular basis and his long and often stormy relationship with the present Dome Secretary, Baroness Wrathe, has been well documented in the tabloids. The Government has denied that Sir Tom's consortium would receive special consideration; but it would, wouldn't it?

filed by Jarvic Klute [j.klute@md.news.uk]
 

 

MDB News
Summer b Monday 04/09/2000
NEW BOMBING ARREST
Home Sec. Chapman O'Straw
Photo: Tim deLong
A spokesman for New Scotland Yard confirmed last night that a new suspect in the Millennium Dome bombing has been arrested in Dundee. The press release added that all suspects previously arrested have been released without charge (if detained) and none are now thought to be connected with the bombing. Home Secretary Chapman O'Straw remains confident that the MDB will be brought to justice in the near future.
   "The police's main problem," he said at a Millennium Dome reception for American businessmen last night, "is that they have so many leads that it is taking an extremely long time to check them all out. But the right piece of information is in there somewhere, you can depend on that."
   An Opposition spokesman called his statement: "A triumph of groundless optimism over the facts". The latest communique from the MDB tends to agree.
   Mailed to print and television news services around the country and authenticated via its fluorescent marker combination, the statement deplored the way the police are manufacturing the straws which they are grasping. 'The innocent must suffer so that the police can be seen to be doing something, no matter how irrelevant it is', to quote the man himself [or woman herself]. So now we know.

report by Insider [In-114@mdb.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Tuesday 05/09/2000
DOME FACELIFT

The Millennium Dome is to get a wash and brush up. Its Teflon-coated fabric has a design life of 25 years and it was supposed to be sufficiently non-stick to resist London's grime and atmospheric pollutants. Such, however, is not the case and the Dome is looking decidedly grubby. The suppliers are blaming the loss of whiteness on damage to the surface coating as a result of the bombing last December.
   A spokesman for the Department of Heritage was unable to supply a figure for the cost of the refurbishment as 'the evaluation process is still on-going'. Significantly, the Chancellor has let it be known that the Treasury is keeping a keen eye on all things to do with the Dome. Mr. McDour is now reported to be positioning himself as someone who is less than impressed with what was done with the Millennium Dome concept. He is also reported to be asking who will pay for the facelift, the government or the consortium led by Sir Tom Todhunter (assuming the deal goes through).

filed by Maris O'Vishke [m.ov@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Thursday 07/09/2000
DOME BEANO FOR FERGUS
The Birthday Boy
Photo: Janet O'Vishke
The Government seems to be suffering from terminal leak-o-mania at the moment. No sin can be committed without someone taking the opportunity to rat to the media.
   The latest leak is about the Prime Minister's brother, Fergus McBlair, who is reported to have held a birthday party for 150 guests in one of the Millennium Dome's peripherals on Saturday at the taxpayer's expense! A Government flunkey came up with some load of tripe about an official function but the story simply doesn't hold water.
   We have also learned that the Prime Minister has been in the habit of letting both his brother and his sister hold their birthday parties at Chequers, his taxpayer-funded official residence, since his election. And this is the same Angus McBlair who issued a stern, election-victory warning to his party "not to abuse the privileges and trappings of power".
   The leaker added that the PM's brother "wanted to do something different this year as it's his fiftieth birthday".
   Not abusing taxpayers' property would have been a nice change.

filed by Dana Howmaj [d.howmaj@md.news.uk]
 

TIME, GENTLEMEN, PLEASE!
Lord Hawksbane
On Yer Bike, Your Lordship
In an astonishing act of unity, many of the national newspapers chose today to vent their anger over the way the Millennium Dome is run. The main target for their fire is the 'Dome Minister', Lord Hawksbane. The Daily Mail and the Daily Express both want the Prime Minister to sack him without delay. The Sun takes exception to the government's decision to award just £4 million to research into the causes of prostate cancer on the same day that the Dome received yet another grant of £47 million of National Lottery money.
   Last night, Leader of the Opposition Winston Hardcastle called for the Prime Minister to sack the Dome's administrators and launch a public inquiry into the whole Dome fiasco; and he seems to have struck a popular note. Mr. Hardcastle was especially scathing about Mr. McBlair's former flatmate, Lord Hawksbane, who was not elected to his high government office. Mr. Hardcastle also urged the Prime Minister to close the Dome 'without delay' and divert the public money wasted on the Dome to 'genuine good causes', such as cancer research.
   The strong criticism of Lord Hawksbane follows his recent interview on Radio Four's Today programme, in which he made a number of extraordinary, and bogus, claims about the benefits to Greenwich of the Millennium Dome. Today's Daily Mail exposes 10 official lies about the Dome, which were told by the members of the McBlair government (including Lord Hawksbane), the previous Tory administration and the Dome's administration. It also lists a number of 'better causes', which were refused grants from the National Lottery Fund.
   Rubbing salt in the wound, leaks emerging from the upper echelons of A New Millennium Dawn, the Dome's management quango, show a high degree of disenchantment with the project. The quotations include:
  • "The original decision to build the Millennium Dome was unwise."
  • "Most people are unable to relate to its contents."
  • "We seem to be revising the visitor-number forecasts downwards on a daily basis."
  • "The lack of parking facilities is a major problem."
  • "The Dome is one hell of a hard place to get to."

Despite all of the above, ANMD's management remains confident that a buyer for the Dome will be found. Given that it is on offer at a fraction of the building cost, whoever buys it is: 'guaranteed to make a killing and I envy them', according to ANMD executive Robyn Carnell-Wyatt. But a lot of people are asking themselves, if it's such a bargain, how come no one is buying? The latest government leak suggests that the recent bid by the consortium led by Sir Tom Todhunter is likely to come to nothing. The consortium is reported to be getting cold feet after an unfavourable 'profit potential assessment' from an independent consultant.

filed by Jarvic Klute [j.klute@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Friday 08/09/2000
DEFENDER OF THE DOME
Pierson McAndelsen
Photo: Oliver Strange Agency
Lord Hawksbane seems to be keeping his head down after the storm that broke over it yesterday, but Heritage Minister Pierson McAndelsen has never been backward in coming forward. He thinks that the ungrateful British public should take pride in the Millennium Dome and stop calling for it to be shut down.
   He also seems to be under the illusion that it was delivered on budget and on target; if not on time due to circumstances beyond the government's control. [Such as the Millennium Dome Bomber blowing it up - Ed.]
   Mr. McAndelsen would like us to stop moaning about the amount of Lottery money going to the Dome in crisis grants and he blames 'media carping' for pushing down visitor numbers. [Although yesterday's report from independent auditors repeated what everyone knows, namely that the government's visitor forecasts have always been wildly over-optimistic. Ed.]
   Although some mistakes have been made along the way, Mr. McAndelsen would like us to accept his assurance that the Dome is the most popular visitor attraction in the country. [Apart from Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which has more paying visitors. Ed.] A note of desperation crept into his thesis when he tried to off-load some of the blame onto the previous Conservative administration. Even so, his general demeanour was that of a man who is proud of what he has accomplished, and who feels that he is much misunderstood.
   Most curious. One feels that he's up to something. [Me, too! Ed.]
   Mr. McAndelsen's brash self-confidence is all the more puzzling at a time when the Dome's administrators have been accused of being mad or bad over the issue of visitor numbers. Some of the secret studies commissioned by A New Millennium Dawn have come up with figures some 40% to 50% below the ones offered to the public.
   In fact, conspiracy theorists have found an excellent correlation between the amount of Lottery cash handed over to the Dome and projections of the number of visitors. The more cash they get, the less inclined the Dome's administrators feel to cut their visitor projections to a realistic value. It would be interesting to get the McAndelsen take on that!
   His lecture on how brilliant the Dome is came to an abrupt end only when someone asked him to comment on a report that its administrators are considering closing the Dome for three days per week to save money. Mr. McAndelsen suddenly realized that he had somewhere else to be.

filed by Maris O'Vishke [m.ov@md.news.uk]
 

NO EARLY CLOSURE FOR DOME

Something that Heritage Minister Pierson McAndelsen missed out of his defence of the Dome yesterday (how odd) is that it can't close early. Why? Because the government has entered into binding contracts to host several events at the Dome in October and November. One such event is this year's Miss World contest.
   The Dome's administrators are tied to some contracts which offer 'unlimited liability'. The bottom line is that if the government breaks them by closing the Dome, the poor old taxpayer will be hit with massive compensation claims.
   A modest amount of detail on the deals has leaked to the Internet. The source is said to be a secret report compiled by PageGrantHustingly. The government is known to have called in this leading firm of accountants some months ago to deliver an independent audit of the Dome's finances. PGH seemes to have compiled one fairly optimistic report for public consumption and this secret one for just the Cabinet's benefit.
   Independent sources have confirmed that Lord Hawksbane was warned that some of the deals were 'tacky' and could lead to the government being accused of hypocrisy, but he took the decision to let them go through anyway. Another rod for his back is the conclusion from the secret report that the Dome is technically insolvent because it cannot pay its current bills and it owes more than it can ever hope to earn.
   One reason for the failure of the bid by the Japanese Doshan syndicate is said to be that their chief executive elect for the Dome project blew a fuse when someone told him that the real cost of sorting out the Dome's financial crisis is at least £400 million and will probably be £100-150 million higher.
   Further arguments for putting off the day of reckoning and not closing the Dome early include the compensation bill arising from sacking the staff before their contracts end and the probability that sponsors will withhold even more of their pledged cash. Add these issues to the contracts mentioned above and it becomes clear that the government is actually acting responsibly by not closing the Dome – mainly because closing the Dome has become more costly than keeping it open. And so the poor old taxpayer will just have to grit her/his teeth for the next four months.

filed by Jarvic Klute [j.klute@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Saturday 09/09/2000
DOME SOLD!
The Dome
The Dome on opening day - Photo: Oliver Strange Agency

Today's good news is that the Millennium Dome has been sold. The bad news is that the poor old taxpayer is still liable for its operating costs for the rest of its public life to the end of this year - and the shut-down costs. The new owners will take possession of an empty Dome from which all of the exhibits have been stripped to allow them to make a rapid fresh start on reviving the attraction's fortunes.
   Sources inside the Government are saying that the purchase of the Dome was negotiated jointly by A New Millennium Dawn (the Dome's management quango), the Treasury, and the Heritage Department - and that the Prime Minister was neither involved in the deal nor kept informed of its progress.
   This leaves Prime Minister Angus McBlair in the classic political dilemma of having to take responsibility for the deal or admit that he is is not in full control of his Government. If the reports of loud noises coming from number 10, Downing Street are to be believed, then the PM is not a happy bunny at the moment.

filed by Jarvic Klute [j.klute@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Monday 11/09/2000
ITALIAN MOGUL BUYS DOME
Lucrio Sospettoso
Photo: Tim deLong
Sir Tom Todhunter, leader of the coalition which bought the Dome, is now known to be just the front man for an Italian billionaire, whose hospitality has been enjoyed extensively by members of the present Government.
   At least five cabinet members, including the Prime Minister, Heritage Minister Pierson McAndelsen and Transport Minister Henry Tudor, have enjoyed free holidays courtesy of Signor Lucrio Sospettoso – with massive security provided by the Italian police at the Italian taxpayer's expense.
   A Downing Street spokesman denied all suggestions of impropriety last night. "The sale of the Millennium Dome was conducted on the basis of obtaining the best possible offer," she said. "We are satisifed that the arrangements made will bring the maximum benefit to the Greenwich area when the planned redevelopment work is continued beyond the end of the current Dome project."
   The Sospetoso Organization, the Dome's new owners, is a multinational with a presence on four continents. The organization has extensive interests in casinos and theme parks in the United States, and its Events Division stages major athletics, cultural and music events around the world. There is talk already of including the Dome among the venues used in a future British Olympic Games.

filed by Jarvic Klute [j.klute@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Tuesday 12/09/2000
FUEL CRISIS HITS DOME?

The fuel crisis is having a neutral effect on attendances at the Millennium Dome. The blockades at oil refineries in protest at the tax levels on petrol and diesel have succeeded in closing practically every petrol station in the country, causing a massive drop in private motoring and closing schools and some business premises. And yet people are not so hard up for something to do that they are flocking to the Dome on the Tube, which is unaffected as yet.
   The Government's revised figures for target Dome attendances in September and October provoked derision from opposition parties when they were unveiled today. The target is now less than one-quarter of the figure which Heritage Minister Pierson McAndelsen was tossing around so confidently just three short months ago. The reduction has been blamed on the high cost of getting to the Dome, which has been linked to the high cost of petrol.
   "Look," the Prime Minister said last night, "we have to stay in touch with reality on this issue."
    Shadow Heritage Minister Alan Evage last night called the target, "A totally meaningless number. If it's achieved, the revenue from admissions won't make any sort of a dent in the cost of the Dome. And if the Government has to think of another, lower figure in the light of actual visitor numbers, then no one will get the sack."

filed by Maris O'Vishke [m.ov@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Thursday 14/09/2000
THE UNSPOKEN WORDS
Pierson McAndelsen
Photo: Oliver Strange Avency
The Government is finding itself in increasing trouble over the question of standards in public life. Nobody is using the s-word or the c-word [sleaze and corruption respectively] but they are clearly in everyone's thoughts. And nobody, but nobody is saying anything at all about Heritage Minister Pierson McAndelsen's past financial indiscretions.
   On a personal level, one of the most embarrassing issues for the Prime Minister is his wife's refusal to put her legal career on hold at a time when Mrs. McBlair stands to draw massive benefit, mainly at the taxpayer's expense, from legislation introduced by her husband's government.
   "It may be legal but it's certainly not decent and it's just another sign of the low standards of the Prime Minister and his immediate circle." said an Opposition spokesman.
   On a professional level, the Prime Minister's handling of the fuel crisis is being compared to King Canute's success in stopping the incoming tide. His opponents are finding vastly amusing, his attempts to distance himself from the Dome fiasco by just never mentioning it. The PM is now in danger of being perceived as a lame duck and becoming vulnerable to a back-stage coup - and there are plenty of members of his party with well-sharpened knives who are looking for the ideal moment to use them. The recent fun and games over the sale of the Millennium Dome are ample proof of that.

filed by Dana Howmaj [d.howmaj@md.news.uk]
 

THE UNSPOKEN WORDS II

Notes of a meeting to discuss the ultimate fate of the Millennium Dome have leaked out. It seems, someone put the document in a fax machine and dialled the number of MD News 'by mistake'. In the event of the Dome reaching the end of this year without finding a buyer, one member of the cabinet suggested setting it on fire. He (or she) felt that millions would flock to view the giant bonfire, and that sales of the TV rights would be worth a fortune.
   The image of the Dome in flames would become imprinted in the world's consciousness in rivalry with visions of the airship Hindenburg burning at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. And adding a suitable firework display would convert a scene with all the attributes of a disaster movie into a symbolic gesture of discarding the old millennium.
   There is no list of those present attached to the anonymous, printed record of the discussion. It is unlikely that Prime Minister McBlair was present at the time, which raises an interesting question. Did one of our unidentified speculators dare to suggest making the occasion into a millennium change version of Bonfire Night? With an Angus McBlair guy going up in flames with the Dome?

filed by Coln Vartin [c.vartin@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Monday 18/09/2000
PARANOID PM

Overheard at the weekend - Prime Minister Angus McBlair accusing a group of journalists of dragging up every issue that gives the public a reason to hate him and/or his party. Paranoia extremens? Or a suggestion for a game to keep people amused on a long journey? Why do I hate the Prime Minister and/or the Government? Sounds like something that could run and run.

p.s. Has someone been winding him up about burning him in effigy with the Millennium Dome bonfire?

filed by Dana Howmaj [d.howmaj@md.news.uk]
 

 

MD News
Summer b Tuesday 19/09/2000
DOME BILLS DELAY SCANDAL
Chancellor George McDour
Photo: Tim deLong
Some of the firms which supplied the Millennium Dome during its construction phase are in trouble due to unpaid bills. "Think of all the delaying tactics that dishonest businesses use to avoid paying out money - then multiply by three when you're talking about the Government," their spokesman said last night.
   A Treasury spokesman blamed the delays - some of the bills which have been left unpaid for over a year - on "inadequate and incomplete paperwork in most cases."
   The Prime Minister is reported to be extremely annoyed by more bad news about his administration. Mr. McBlair is said to be considering a personal intervention and going to the Treasury to bang some heads together. He is reported to have said, "These bills will be paid within the next week or heads will roll."
   Chancellor of the Exchequer George McDour is staying uncharacteristically quiet on this one. He has never been an enthusiastic supporter of the Dome - he's an active and dedicated opponent, in fact, if some Government insiders can be believed - because most of the Dome's supporters are his sworn political enemies. It's certainly no secret that McDour and Heritage Minister Pierson McAndelsen have each other at No. 1 on their respective Personal Hate Lists.

filed by Jarvic Klute [j.klute@md.news.uk]
 

FRAUD SQUAD MAKING CHECKS ON DOME CONTRACTS
DCI Breitsch, Fraud Squad
DCI Sam Breitsch: Fraud Squad
Just when Prime Minister Angus McBlair and his beleaguered Dome minions were starting to see daylight, Scotland Yard has thrown a curve-ball in their direction. Detective Chief Inspector Sam Breitsch of Department SO 6, otherwise known as the Fraud Squad, is investigating allegations relating to Millennium Dome contracts, some 3,200 of which were awarded during the planning, construction, repair and operation phases.
   No numbers were on offer by the police, however. A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard told MD News that the Fraud Squad is investigating several companies based in London and the Home Counties in connection with 'allegations of irregularities related to the procurement of contracts'.
   MD News understands that the investigations are still at their early stages, more than one contract is involved and several contractors who worked for A New Millennium Dawn, the Dome's operator, are under scrutiny.
Campbell McAllister   This latest scandal follows persistent rumours that the Greenwich-based visitor attraction was bailed out with a hurriedly processed Lottery grant after literally running out of operating cash. Campbell McAllister, the Prime Minister's communications chief, has been burning up the phone lines to deny the rumour, but a great many people are taking his denials as proof positive that some sort of disaster actually happened.
   Shadow Heritage Minister Alan Evage commented: "The speed of the tail-spin is generally proportional to the size of the blunder being covered up. And Mr. McAllister seems to be revolving at supersonic speed right now."

filed by Coln Vartin [c.vartin@md.news.uk]

 

MD News
Summer b Wednesday 20/09/2000
Dome Patronage – 'Nothing Improper'
Byrom Chaikovsky
Photo: Tim deLong
'Dome Secretary' Baroness Wrathe's close friend Bryom Chaikovsky is working as a consultant for the new owners of the Millennium Dome, it was revealed last night at a rather good party in darkest Islington.
   The news from Baroness Wrathe's other friends - the sober ones - is that she has nothing to hide, no improper decisions were taken at the time of the sale of the Dome, no improper influence was exerted on the decision-making process and it's a pure coincidence that one of her close friends stands to make a whole heap of cash out of the whole affair.
   A New Millennium Dawn (the Dome's management quango), the New Millennium Commission, which handed out so much cash to keep the Dome afloat, and the Prime Minister's Office are all cool with what went on. And nobody at the offices of the Dome's new owner had anything quotable to say.
   So there!

filed by Maris O'Vishke [m.ov@md.news.uk]
 

Dome Contracts Scandal – Was Cronyism Involved?
DCI Sam Breitsch: Fraud Squad
Scotland Yard's Fraud Squad is believed to be investigating how a contract worth £3.8 million was awarded to a longtime friend of an officer at A New Millennium Dawn, the Dome's management quango. ANMD is refusing to name the contractor but, after a little prodding, they did admit that the firm is still working at the Dome site; and the officer concerned still has a job with ANMD.
   The quango has known about this 'area for concern' since about May of this year, when another employee voiced misgivings over the contract. Instead of going public, ANMD held an internal investigation. And when that failed to prove or disprove corruption, the police were called in. Scotland Yard, in contrast, said that the Public Sector Corruption Unit of the Fraud Squad moved in after someone quit his job at ANMD then indulged in a spot of whistle-blowing.
   The informant claimed that a 'middle manager' with responsibility for building and servicing contracts gave a service contract worth £3.8 million to a close friend, who runs a company in south London. No allegations of direct bribery have been made and ANMD is satisfied that the work done is satisfactory and the terms of the contract are fair. The only area of concern for ANMD is the manager's friendship with the contractor.
Tory leader Winston Hardcastle   Conservative leader Winston Hardcastle described the news as, "yet another episode in the Dome's lengthening list of scandals." He coupled his statement with a call to the Prime Minister to reveal just what went on in the period immediately before the Dome's originally scheduled opening last year.
   The latest leaks detail a state of total chaos in ANMD's management structure with officers in such a rush to meet the deadline for opening that they failed to keep proper records and follow correct contract scrutiny protocols. According to one source, "The Millennium Dome Bomber did everyone a big favour. A realistic opening date for the Dome was March of this year. He let us put it off until mid-July, which gave us a chance to get everything fairly ship-shape and bury a few bodies."
   It seems likely that ANMD is going to need more than a few cans of PR air-freshener to hide the stench of rotting bodies, and that Scotland Yard will be kept quite busy in the near future.

filed by Coln Vartin [c.vartin@md.news.uk]

 

MD News
Summer b Thursday 21/09/2000
McBLAIR SHUNS DOME

Yet another rod for the Prime Minister's back is the fact that he has never taken his family to the Millennium Dome. Mr. McBlair is now effectively trapped between the proverbial rock and hard place. If he goes now, he's been shamed into it. And if he doesn't go, why not? Especially if, as Angus McBlair has said on so many occasion in the past, the Dome is so brilliant. At times like this, it's almost possible to feel sorry for a politician. Almost.

filed by Maris O'Vishke [m.ov@md.news.uk]
 

Summer b
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