As one who has been known to take the occasional flutter I am probably more familiar than most with the concept of hedging one's bets. Many a time I have backed a soccer team or a horse with one book and then laid it off with another at a favourable price, locking in a guaranteed profit.
Sadly Hounslow New Labour's latest act of hedging, taking an anti "cuts" stance whilst simultaneously demanding even bigger reductions to our borough's spending than we have currently managed is not likely to reap dividends. Those whose loyalty is not to New Labour are unlikely to be taken in, whilst traditional Labour supporters whose instinct it is, like mine, to protect services first and foremost will in all likelihood be confused and demoralised by this latest volte face.
Thus the debate at this week's Borough Council meeting at which the first tranche of proposed savings was introduced saw New Labour in mid fluster. As soon as Labour Deputy Leader Councillor Ruth Cadbury began to issue forth in a schoolteacher-like tone, voice filled with an absurdly exaggerated indignation that was so clearly contrived, it was obvious to me that the party had not been briefed as to whether it was required to support the proposals and demand that they should be taken further, or oppose them with a flourish of socialistic ardour.
My suspicions were confirmed when the Labour Group proposed that the report be deferred, ostensibly on the grounds that they had not had enough time to consider it.
One cannot but admire the lengths that the depleted ranks of Hounslow New Labour are prepared to go to in their efforts to try to keep their alleged Members of Parliament in office and in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. Their willingness to sacrifice their credibility and if needs be to allow themselves to become a borough-wide laughing stock in the name of that quest is certainly to be respected.
The whole glorious farce was beautifully epitomised by Councillor Mohinder Gill, a likeable chap, when he raised his hand to oppose the recommendations, then quickly dropped it again after looking around and seeing that his colleagues had been instructed to abstain.
One is almost tempted to hope that the sacrifice turns out to be worth it. Almost.