The BBC TV Panorama programme on corruption in British horse racing made depressing viewing. Anyone who gambles on the horses must suspect that not every race is run strictly according to form and that not every jockey is trying 100 per cent of the time. But everyone who gambles on the horses is entitled to suppose that the Jockey Club, which has supervised racing for centuries, is ensuring that chicanery is kept to a minimum. Panorama showed the naivety of such an assumption because the Jockey Club is apparently reluctant to use its powers to keep racing clean.

The most shocking revelation in the programme was probably that Keith Fallon, who is currently Britain's leading flat race jockey and rides in the Queen's colours, cannot any longer get a licence to ride in Hong Kong because the authorities there are suspicious of his connections with Chinese gangsters involved in betting scams; yet, according to Panorama, Fallon continues to maintain his Chinese connections in the UK.

The Panorama programme relied mainly on allegations from a former head of security at the Jockey Club who was recently dismissed in controversial circumstances. However, for the most part the chief spokesman for the Club did not deny these allegations but argued either that they were ”not new” or that the Club did not have the evidence or authority to deal with them. It was not a strong defence. It is likely that the consequences of this TV investigation will be significant.

Ray Fleming

What the polls say

President Bush's TV address to the American nation on Monday evening showed that he felt the need to bolster support for his policy on Iraq among the public at large. He decided on a new approach, taking all the major criticisms of his policy and anwering each in turn. In its way, it was an impressive performance, rather in the style of his address to the UN General Assembly on September 12, but its impact must have have been limited by the fact that none of the major TV networks chose to broadcast it live but relied on reports and excerpts in news bulletins.

It will be interesting to see whether this TV address will boost Mr Bush's opinion poll approval ratings on Iraq, which have been slipping. Prime Minister Blair will be watching this because opinion in Britain is volatile. The latest ICM figures show that opposition to an attack on Iraq is now at 41 per cent of those questioned, the lowest recorded by ICM since it began a monthly check in August. Support is at 32 per cent, considerably lower than the 37 per cent recorded in mid-September.

The most significant shift is a marked increase in those saying that they “don't know”; they now represent 27 per cent of those questioned, the highest figure since ICM started tracking this issue in the summer. This suggests that the much-heralded dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has failed to clarify attitudes.

Monitor

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