POLITICS is all about opportunity and timing. Sometimes on a small scale as when Gordon Birtwistle was elected Liberal Democrat MP for Burnley in 2010.

The country was fed up with the Labour Government and the town was fed up with the same party running the council.

Their previous MP had decided to stand down and he had a keynote issue – the loss of Burnley General’s accident and emergency department.

Slightly to his surprise, Westminster beckoned.

Sometimes the scale is rather bigger as Tony Blair and new Labour found when John Major’s Tory government ran out of steam.

Three election victories followed and high office came to Blackburn MP Jack Straw.

Just once in a while, it’s really big stuff.

The 1940s atmosphere after the Second World War left the nation exhausted, enabling Clement Attlee’s government to create the National Health Service and Welfare State.

While both have their problems, few argue the NHS should go in favour of the American system of checking accident victims’ pockets for their credit and medical insurance cards.

And not many would bring back the Victorian system of workhouses and ‘industrial schools’ or the soup kitchens of the 1930s.

Sometimes periods of greatest hardship are the time to gamble on the future.

So it is with Blackburn town centre.

For more than a decade, council administrations, both Labour and the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, have strived to bring the heart of the borough back into beating life.

There have been hiccups and disagreements over the way, including over the location of the Mall and new market.

Now the construction work is beginning on the £33million Cathedral Quarter and £5m new bus station.

Blackburn with Darwen council has an ambitious 12-point plan to bring restaurants and a new night-time economy to the centre, copied already by Burnley.

Major transport upgrades, including half-hourly train services to Manchester and the Pennine Reach bus scheme, are in progress.

It could all come together to produce what borough Tory Mayor Alan Cottam has described as ‘the most compact and complete town centre in Britain’.

Or with the rise in internet shopping and the nation’s uncertain economic future it could all fall flat on its face, becoming one of history’s great municipal white elephants.

Everyone involved knows the project is a massive gamble.

Now their fingers are crossed the timing is right and an opportunity has been grasped.