| Tuesday 26/09/2000|
|CURSE OF THE DOME?|
Heads are about to roll as public indignation about the Millennium Dome fiasco grows, although just relatively small fish are in danger of decapitation at the moment. Conservative leader Winston Hardcastle has described Prime Minister McBlair's much leaked plans for reshuffling Dome related responsibilities during its limited time of public ownership as 'merely cosmetic' and 'rank failure to address the underlying problems'.
|Dome Sec. Baroness Wrathe|
Photo: Tim deLong
Most people are expecting the departure of Dame Alice Wrathe, 'Dome Secretary' and head of the Dome's management quango, in the near future. Parallels are being drawn between between Dame Alice and Dame Amerlia Grigg, who recently resigned from the chair of the National Lottery Board. Dame Alice's level of competence is being described as even lower than that of Dame Amerlia, who is reported to have jumped before she was pushed.
Another similarity is that Dame Amerlia took a pay cut of just 20% she still draws an income from five other quangos while Dame Alice is a paid board member of three other quangos beside A New Millennium Dawn. Losing that job would not damage her too much financially and, like Dame Amerlia, she has plenty of friends willing to find her equally well-paid jobs in the public sector.
Prime Minister McBlair is now seen to be hunting desperately for 'can carriers' to take the blame for the Millennium Dome fiasco (all he's taking is responsibility, which is a lesser evil). Cabinet watchers are confident that David Jones, the present Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and chairman of the New Millennium Commission, will be stuck on the back benches for all eternity if he survives the next general election. The same fate is looking more and more likely for Pierson McAndelsen, presently Heritage Minister by virtue of the Prime Minister's patronage.
As for Lord Hawksbane, sometime prime ministerial flat-mate and the Cabinet Office Minister in charge of co-ordinating the Millennium Dome project, no one in government circles ever mentions him these days. He has succeeded in becoming a New Labour non-person.
And it's not just Labour Party politicians who have to be worried. Should the Conservatives win the next election, a number of their senior figures will find themselves barred from Cabinet posts, sleazed by their enthusiasm for the Millennium Dome project. In fact, the power of the Dome Curse is such that it's difficult to see anyone coming out of the shadow of the flagship millennium project with any credit apart from the Millennium Dome Bomber, of course!
filed by Maris O'Vishke [email@example.com]
|Dome disaster warnings ignored|
Before the 1997 general election, the Millennium Commission received separate reports on the Millennium Dome project from two groups of consultants. The reports were in the possession of the new Labour government when the Cabinet voted to go ahead with the Dome.
At that point, no Lottery money had been spent on the project and incoming Prime Minister Angus McBlair and his allies were still in the process of swinging their Cabinet colleagues into line. A summary of the reports has just been leaked to MD News, presumably by one of the Prime Minister's many enemies. The Cabinet Office would not comment on the leak yesterday, and there was a deafening silence in response to questions about whether the full cabinet had seen the reports. The main points of the summary are:
- Visitor Numbers : A target of 12 million visitors in the Millennium Year is 'unlikely to be achieved' given a plan to admit visitors to 2 separate sessions at the Dome on just 143 days.
- Transport Capacity : The delays to the Jubilee Line extension, the lack of car parking space and the state of surface public transport would make the Dome 'difficult to reach and difficult to fill with the required number of visitors'.
- Management Issues : The proposed management team of A New Millennium Dawn lacked the necessary experience of operating an attraction on the scale of the Dome, as well as creative and technical expertise. The management team as a whole was 'lacking in strength and depth'.
- Must-See Potential : In order to become 'the greatest show on Earth', the Dome would need 'the strongest attractions on Earth'. As both ANMD and the (then Conservative) government had produced nothing more than sketches of the Dome's content, severe doubts were raised about their ultimate quality.
- Risk Factor : One of the consultants described the Dome as 'the riskiest project on Earth, public or private sector'. He added, 'Making a success of the project will require more good luck than any government could reasonably hope to enjoy.'
It seems likely that Mr. McBlair and his cronies dropped the reports down the back of a filing cabinet if they were able to twist enough arms to make the Dome project happen. A certain reckless optimism had to be involved in the decision to build the Dome or perhaps the new Prime Minister was convinced that he could walk on water and make anything happen after leading his party out of an electoral wilderness.
If so, then he has to take full responsibility for failing to make the Dome a must-see attraction, failing to give it the right management, and failing to make it easy for people to reach it.
filed by Conrad Zorn [firstname.lastname@example.org]