BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Ministers duck the Dome fiasco
The Millennium Dome
No one wants to take repsonsibility for Dome
By BBC News Online's political correspondent Nick Assinder.

There is no more embarrassing sight than that of a politician attempting to cover his backside when trouble erupts.

And there has been no better example of that phenomenon than the row surrounding the Millennium Dome.

By most measures, the Greenwich attraction - if that is the right word - has been an unmitigated disaster.

But trying to find any politician ready to admit responsibility for it is like looking for the Yeti in the Australian outback.

Everyone knows that, somewhere in the distant past, a politician must have given the go ahead for what is now widely viewed as an ill-conceived national embarrassment.

People vaguely remember it was all Michael Heseltine's idea in the first place and that Labour used to rubbish it on a daily basis.

Mr Heseltine now has the luxury of being able to claim his original idea only went off the rails once Labour took over.

Mandy's folly

There is also a hazy recollection that, once New Labour was elected, it changed tune and - with "Dome Minister" Peter Mandelson in charge - promised the greatest show on earth.

Former dome minister Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandeslon promised greatest show
Indeed, wasn't it the prime minister himself who insisted it would be the best day out on this, or any other planet and make Britain the envy of the world - not a laughing stock?

And Mr Mandelson used to make increasingly flamboyant claims about the eye-popping spectaculars the Dome would contain.

He would haughtily dismiss any suggestion it would fail to attract the 12m visitors needed to make it a financial success.

He even used to imply darkly that anyone who raised an eyebrow over the project was somehow knocking Britain.

Now, of course, the Dome is struggling to meet one third of its original visitor target and just about everyone takes the mickey out of it with impunity.

And, now that Nomura have pulled out of the buy-up deal, it is even having trouble finding a buyer to take it over when its time runs out at the end of the year.

But Mr Mandelson is safely tucked up in Hillsborough Castle in Belfast where he is keeping his head well down.

No resignation

Meanwhile Culture Secretary Chris Smith also appeared to have some departmental responsibility for the Dome - although you would never believe it if you listened to his spin doctors who were desperate to insist the buck stopped with the New Millennium Experience Company.

Then, finally, Lord Falconer appeared to take control - but only up to the point at which things started to go wrong. Then it was all down to the project's first boss, Jenny Page.

However, while insisting the project has still been a success by regenerating that part of London - he readily admits that, in retrospect, it might have been a good idea for the Dome to have a strong entertainment value.

But will he take ultimate responsibility for the farce and consider his resignation given William Hague's demand for his head - of course not.

After all, it was really nothing to do with him and, as he said himself, he did his best.

But, while the politicians wriggle, ordinary voters are becoming increasingly angry that their local community projects may have been denied lottery cash because of the government's need to save the Dome and save its face.

And what Tony Blair must fear is that they will know exactly whose backsides to kick when the time comes.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

06 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Ditch Dome now - Hague
06 Sep 00 | UK
Dome deal goes ahead
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories