(I’ve been writing this in dribs and drabs this afternoon and Tom’s beaten me to the thrust of it, with more panache of course, so feel free to skip over this one for his post instead…)
Listeners to this lunchtime’s World at One on BBC Radio 4 were treated to Boris attempting to coin a new past participle of the verb ‘to grit’: having correctly used the word ‘gritted’, he embarked on a diversion into pondering alternatives such as ‘grat’, to the disbelieving frustration of host Martha Kearney, who said his conjugation was all very well but it didn’t address the matter of why no-one could get a bus to work this morning.
We Boris-watchers are all too familiar with the typical Boris tactic of avoiding questions by rambling like an entertaining idiot, and today we’ve seen it deployed in the face of two retrograde environmental steps which once again establish Boris as head of a regime intent on cancelling or rolling back as much of London’s environmental progress as possible.
Today’s less-significant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things announcement, which is nevertheless symbolic of the administration’s priorities, is that not only are no buses running today, but also the congestion charge is suspended for the day.
To an extent – and you won’t hear me say this very often about a Boris sentence containing the phrase “taxpayers’ money” – I have some sympathy with what he said about the plight of the buses today. Undoubtedly it’s true that other countries cope better with snow than we appear to, but this is the worst snow in London for two decades, so it’s understandable that (unless climate change will make these things become much more common) it’s not going to be easy to make the case for having a vast fleet of gritting trucks on standby year in, year out, for the once-in-a-generation event of this much snow in this space of time.
But the suspension of the congestion charge, as has been noted elsewhere, is a ridiculous handout to motorists, which can only serve to encourage more people to take to the roads at a time when the advice of those dealing with the countless slippery prangs and crashes is not even to think about getting into your car unless it’s completely unavoidable. Clearly Boris’s free-market individualist principles (how’s that going, by the way?) are more important than the safety of his citizens – plus ça change.
The more significant long-term announcement – which one can’t help but suspect was rushed out today so it would be buried in a snowdrift – is that the Low Emission Zone’s phased rollout is being stopped. We can’t interfere with small businesses’ right to pump poisonous particulate matter into London’s air during a recession, after all.
So once again we find the motorist triumphing over the greater good of Greater London, and the progress of London’s environmental policies being halted by a Mayor who seems hell-bent on treading water rather than doing anything worthwhile. And with the sea level rises expected from the climate change caused by ‘leadership’ like that shown by Boris, I suppose treading water will be a useful skill to have.
“You’ve put on a fantastic display of snow power but that is probably quite enough.”
I think this marks the point at which things have become so utterly ridiculous that I start wondering if everything since 1 May has actually just been a bad dream. Here’s hoping.
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