Those who decry voracious FOBTs – fixed odds betting terminals – do so in part because they “prey on the vulnerable”.
The excellent BBC series Britain At The Bookies did its work in showing not all is so black and white. The gambling giants aren’t evil ogres trading exclusively in human misery and the punters aren’t the vulnerables of Dickensian literature – simple-minded, exploited and guileless.
Indeed, of all the crushed romantics in the world, gamblers are the most self aware. They know their pox just as well as they know their losses.
Terry chucked £2,200 into a FOBT and saw it all vanish. “It’s the same, never-ending circle. I wouldn’t advise it to no-one. It’s a mug’s game.”
To people like Terry, the anodyne entreaty “Please Gamble Responsibly” is met with a world-weary shrug and the response – “What’s the point of that?”
The long-awaited river crossings between Dartford and Blackwall will be different to their western counterparts in one significant regard – they will all demand tolls.
This is partly to fund these large infrastructure projects (the Silvertown tunnel will cost £750million) and partly to dissuade traffic from recreating the current gridlock.
Is this a tax on the east? Or a small price to pay for resilience? That was the question that exercised the business community at a breakfast meeting hosted by TfL in Greenwich recently.
Some argue that drivers should not have an advantage (free travel) not available to public transport users. That is a case supported by history. When the first London Bridge superseded ferries in the 13th century, the watermen’s levy was immediately transferred to the fixed structure.
• Also online: Why the battle for Silvertown Tunnel is up in the air
Bridge House Estates, the company formed to administer the operation, made so much money it could eventually afford to fund the construction of Blackfriars Bridge and Tower Bridge and buy Southwark Bridge from a toll-charging company.
Many other bridges west of the City still charged users which put immense pressure on the few toll-free crossings. So much so that, from 1869, the Metropolitan Board of Works began buying up all the private bridges to free them from onerous tolls.
Perhaps then the answer to the inequality of east and west is that old inescapable pincer movement of market forces and time.
Changing the subject
We live a butterfly life, we journalists. One minute lost in matters relating to the movement of sewage, the next minute spouting the jargon of a crypto-currency startup and finishing the day sipping coconut water to assess its efficacy.
It is this mayfly attention span that makes me admire those with single-minded tenacity all the more.
People like Jonathan Ganesh who has been campaigning tirelessly for justice and compensation for the victims of the 1996 Docklands IRA bomb for 19 years.
A more unfailingly polite and humble person it would be impossible to meet. He has the air of someone most comfortable outside a municipal sports centre collecting petition signatures from chatty pensioners.
Yet he walks with ministers and talks with kings and came home last week with a cross-party parliamentary inquiry in his pocket. Remarkable.