WHAT will future historians make of these years of New Labour?

Will it be the "modernisation" of society and the "regeneration" of towns such as ours in East Lancashire?

Or will it be Tony Blair's incessant demand for "reform" of public services and an almost childlike faith in the ability of the market?

Will it be the pervading belief, actually quite wrong, that "private" is always better than "public"?

We watch Tony Blair cosy up with rich businessmen. We marvel at his apparent fascination for all things American over the more community based "social model" in Europe.

We see how all this and the wish to keep spending off the public balance sheet have led New Labour into an economic minefield of so-called PFIs and PPPs. "Public finance initiatives" and "public private partnerships": a way to get banks and capitalist corporations to pay for all manner of new facilities from roads to hospitals to schools to leisure facilities.

But why not? Well, they mean we all pay much more in the long run. But hey! (as Blair's American friends no doubt say) that won't be our problem. So perhaps it's no surprise that New Labour are now looking to American gambling corporations to help regenerate towns like Blackpool and even Burnley by building enormous new casinos.

Ignoring a remarkable outbreak of angry protest, the Government is blundering ahead with its new Gambling Bill. Ministers are talking with enthusiasm of allowing up to 40 of these new gambling palaces. Vast glitzy neon-decorated mega-emporiums. Packed with what George Bernard Shaw called the "vice which is economically ruinous" - gambling on a large scale.

Profits from these casinos will be in billions. I don't know whether agents for any of these powerful companies have yet been in touch with the council, but newspapers have Burnley on the list of towns to be bribed.

"Let us make our millions here. We may destroy local families and your communities in the process. But we promise lots of new (low-grade 'flexible') jobs - and we'll throw in a hotel, a new housing estate and a donation to the local Samaritans."

Morgan Phillips once said that the Labour Party owed "more to Methodism than to Marxism". Is this nightmare the future that it now offers areas like ours?

If so, should we really take the gamble?