Sunday, 30 January 2011

Angus Reid has Labour equal in poll share with both coalition partners

Angus Reid has a released a poll today that gives Labour a double-digit lead over the Tories, and a vote share equal to the Tories and Liberal Democrats combined.

False Economy

Just a quick post to highlight the work of False Economy, an excellent website that is recording, region by region, the practical realities of the government's wrong-headed spending cuts programme. The website has an interactive element to encourage readers to post stories regarding cuts in their areas - and a quick glance at their clickable map gives an indication of the sheer scale of them.  

Leading flat-earther James Delingpole stumped by vaguely intelligent question on tv

A little off-topic for this blog, but it is difficult to cover modern right-wing politics without broaching the delicate subject of climate change. Regular Telegraph columnist James Delingpole is a member of that most pernicious of species: the 'global warming is a made-up evil Marxist scam' brigade. Their usual approach to rational argument is to put their fingers in their ears, metaphorically speaking, and their approach to science is to, well, ignore it. They are 'flat earthers'. They are frequently, as this clip demonstrates admirably, totally at a loss when faced with a vaguely sensible question.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

2010: Boris announces 2011 will be London's 'Year of Walking".... 2011: Boris slates the idea in his own Telegraph column

The increasingly confused Mayor of London, currently flapping between promoting the construction a new airport in Kent (after campaigning against an extension of Heathrow) and other random projects, has excelled himself with an attack in his'chickenfeed' Telegraph column on his... ahem... own policies.

What's noticeable about Boris is his capacity to get bored with 'normal' things like making sure transport works properly in London, or bothering to sort out air quality, and instead spending large chunks of his time on expensive and often bizarre schemes.

Thanks to BorisWatch (http://www.boriswatch.co.uk) for this story.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Sure Start - the axe starts to fall

An estimated 60,000 families are to be affected as 250 Sure Start Children's Centres are likely to close in 2011 as a result of the decision by the government to slash funding for the scheme.

In addition a report by the the charitable organisations 4Children and the Daycare Trust estimates that another 2000 centres will provide a reduced service and over 3000 will have their funding significantly reduced.

Number of front-line police officers falls for first time in a decade

The Home Office has published figures showing falls totalling more than 5,000 in civilian staff and - politically important for a government that nailed its mast to a pledge to protect 'front-line staff' - community support officers and police officers.

The only rises were in the numbers of unpaid staff.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Government's weak proposals for bank lending watered down even further

Indications last weekend that the banks were stalling on their negotiations with the government over bonuses and lending to small businesses now look to have resulted in the government watering down its plans, according to City A.M.

It looks like that although Osborne has no plan B for the rest of us, he's willing to compromise with the banks. A lot.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Leaked papers: Cameron secretly fought tougher rules on bank bonuses

As bonus season rolls on and the banks procrastinate about what minuscule social good they might undertake,  Tribune magazine has received a leaked copy of a Treasury paper that reveals that the public pronouncements by senior Conservatives were not matched by action.

Quite the opposite in fact: it appears that the UK government actively lobbied to water down relatively modest action on bank bonuses.

The Tribune story is here, and the Guardian has now covered the story here.

Monday, 24 January 2011

As Murdoch bid for Sky reaches climax, the BBC cull begins

Jeremy Hunt's decision on the Sky bid is looming, but in the meantime the realities of the BBC's budget cuts have begun to sink in.

So, on Friday, BBC Monitoring - which monitors and translates foreign-language media and communications from across the world from its base in Caversham - announced redundancies.

BBC Online, meanwhile, will be slashing its spend by a quarter, reducing dramatically its spend in some of its more popular areas, making 'space' for commercial players and going some way to satisfying Cameron. News International et al.

Democracy will be the loser at the end of the Cameron project

Who do you blame if your train is late?

The train operating company? Network Rail perhaps? The maintenance firm to whom work is sub-contracted? One or all of these, no doubt. But not your local MP, or the transport minister. Probably not, as they have little or no control over the system any more. The train network in this country is many things, but accountable, it isn't.

Now let's take the government's NHS reforms. Or their Free Schools policy. Or their plans to outsource just about every local authority function and very many civil service functions. The same logic would apply: if one private company (responsible above all else to its shareholders) owns one part of a service, some social enterprise another, yet another US-based corporation another part, then who is ultimately responsible for providing the service? And who can you call to task, as a citizen in a democratic state, if things go wrong?

If you receive bad service from a clothes shop you can vote with your feet and pop next door to a rival. But so many services - railways included - cannot offer that choice. So 'choice' in this sense becomes an illusory concept. Without the capacity to vote the owners of the organisation out - as we can do with our elected politicians - you are left impotent. It's a democratic deficit.

It is precisely this dilemma that has led Gus O'Donnell, the head of the civil service, to order an inquiry into the government's planned Big Society reforms (or, if you prefer to use its full title, the wholesale privatisation and fragmentation of publicly-owned services). He is - rightly - concerned that the end of the road for Cameron's project may leave millions of citizens disenfranchised, with little or no power over the services that they rely on.

It is one of the big charades of the libertarian Right - its proponents profess to believe in 'choice', 'accountability' and 'people power', but are pursuing an ideological project that will lead to power becoming ever more distant - entrenched in the corridors of a Texas-based multinational or on some other distant shore. It is the polar opposite of democracy.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

As banks stall on lending to businesses and refuse to rein in bonuses, calls grow for an end to food speculation


© Steve Bell

It seems unbelievable, that with public anger so palpable, the banking industry behaves as though nothing has changed.

Having announced huge bonuses, in many cases far out of proportion to their successes, the latest update from the negotiations between the Treasury and then biggest UK banks is that they are even trying to sit on their hands over a commitment to lending to small businesses.

Even if you leave aside the staggering sight of an industry that was saved by taxpayers now sticking two figures up at wider society, there is an even deeper irony to the situation we are now in. The same society that has underwritten the system and whose wishes are now ignored suffer in a number of other ways, beyond cuts in public services and tax rises. For example, property prices in central London and elsewhere continue to defy gravity, making it ever more difficult for people on relatively reasonable salaries to buy or rent, due in no small part to the spending ability of the recipients of vast annual bonuses.

But it's not just in property where the side-effects of largesse and excess are felt. In worldwide food prices, both in the west and (more damagingly) in the developing world, there is an even more worrying trend - excessive speculation in food commodities.

The World Development Movement has led the charge against food speculation - a trend that picked up in the deregulation of the 1990s - and now is estimated to have been at least partly responsible for numerous rises in the cost of basic stable foods. Nevertheless, this damaging trend is accelerating, as major banks undertake the same kind of behaviour that preceded the sum-prime mortgage crash of 2007, willfully oblivious to the concerns of others.

ANOTHER WORLD

This apparent detachment from society, in many cases the lack of understanding of its concerns or even the recognition of its existence at all, was fittingly marked last week by the opening of One Hyde Park: what one columnist described as "a '21st-century monument' to the ever-growing gap between rich and poor".

The jarring chasm between the opulence of the building and the rising austerity of the society in which it was built raised the heckles of even columnists to the right of the political centre.

Alexander Chancellor described a project that "reached its triumphant moment of fulfilment on the very day that the government announced a youth unemployment rate of more than 20%, its highest level since records began, and a sudden surge in inflation that threatened to make the poor, but especially pensioners, even poorer than they were already.... while these gloomy facts were being reported, some of the richest people in the world were gathered next door in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel... to mark the completion of the four glass and steel towers now known as One Hyde Park, in which four penthouses have already been sold for up to £135m each and the price of floor space exceeds all records at £6,000 a square foot".

Chris Blakhurst, writing in the Standard, described the opening as part of what could best be described as a lament for the kind of capitalism (and country) that even many one-national Conservatives want to see. For this is not not - as some on the libertarian Right would argue- envy, but rather part of a genuine fear from many across the political spectrum of the consequences for a society that becomes too unequal, too separated:

"There I was, sitting in a bubble of wealth and excess. The food was from Heston Blumenthal and Daniel Boulud, just about the two most starry chefs on the planet; the wine was superb... And all was well.

Meanwhile, at Westminster, schoolchildren marched against the scrapping of the £30-a-week Education Maintenance Allowance paid by the Government to enable them to afford to go on to the sixth form. And the Office for National Statistics produced figures showing that almost one million young people are now out of work and the dole queue is growing by 540 a day. As if to compound that message, three county councils announced the shedding of 2,500 jobs".

He then went on to describe the decision by Goldman Sachs to fund vast bonuses, at the same time as slashing it's own charity programme by more than a third. He ends the article with this, which sums up eloquently what very many people feel:

"It's hard to know what's in their heads any more. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they simply, really, do not get it.

In the same way that those assembled at the Mandarin Oriental lapped up Rogers waxing lyrical about his "iconic" block of luxury flats - when elsewhere in the same city, as the Evening Standard reported this week, 50 homeless men regularly bed down under a flyover - you have to wonder if Goldman bankers ever look out of their limousine windows and step on to pavements. Do they experience what we experience? Do they share the same concerns about a divided society, rising unemployment and beleaguered public services? Or do they exist in a separate space, behind their gated drives, ring-fenced from the rest of us and convince themselves that everything is fine?

Next week, captains of industry and their adoring, unquestioning advisers and supporters will decamp to Davos for their annual get-together. They will preen and kid themselves that they are making a difference, that they are trying to make the world a better place. While they chat and party, back at their head offices, their accountants will be planning new ways of avoiding paying taxes.

What's depressing about the past 24 hours is the sense that nothing has changed. Despite everything we've been through, with borrowers being encouraged to take too much, with banks going cap in hand to governments, with the financial system teetering on the brink of collapse, we seem to be back where we began. We're supposed to glory in Knightsbridge apartments with Brecca Paradiso marble surfaces and European Oak woods. We're expected to applaud Goldman Sachs for having done so marvellously.

What was it Barclays' CEO Bob Diamond said last week? That the time for "remorse" from bankers is over and we must move on. Certainly, I did not detect any sorrow at the Mandarin and there was none to be gleaned from Goldman's results declaration. What I now find myself asking is, was there ever any at all?".

Friday, 21 January 2011

Lib Dem MP attacks NHS reforms

Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell has praised the NHS and attacked Andrew Lansley's planned reforms as "privatisation by stealth".

Russell is an outspoken MP on the left of his party... the question is whether the rising tide of opposition to the reforms amongst rank and file Liberal Democrat members will impact upon the views of the Liberal Democrat leadership.

This will be a defining issue for the party. If the Lib Dem leadership continue to offer warm support for the reforms and back it in the Commons, it will entrench the party as a right-of-centre alternative to the Conservatives, as opposed to the centrist (or even left-of-centre) party that many people believed it to be.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Government doesn't trust GPs to manage flu jabs campaign... but will trust them to manage the entire NHS budget

Go figure. Today the government announces that it has lost confidence in GPs to manage, at a local level, the campaign to immunise vulnerable people against seasonal flu, but will meanwhile press ahead with legislation to devolve NHS commissioning to GP consortia and public health to local councils.

If this comparatively small job failed so completely, then what chaos lies ahead?

All this as critism of the reforms go on,

and on,

and on,

and on.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

NHS reform "smacks of ideological fervour, with theory placed above pragmatism"

The quote in the title of this post, incidentally, was produced in a Daily Mail comment piece. It's indicative of just how widespread opposition is to the speed and scale of Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms.

Today, the papers are yet again full of concerns from a disparate range of groups and individuals, from the Nuffield Trust, to Civitas, to Daily Mail columnists.

The letter below, printed in the Guardian, from the Co-chair of the NHS Consultants' Association, sums the mood up neatly:

David Cameron claims that GPs signing up for pilot schemes is proof of their enthusiasm for the reforms (Cameron to sell NHS reforms with glowing tribute to doctors and GPs, 17 January). Far from it. They are watching the infrastructure of the NHS implode before their eyes and trying to hold it together. They are holding their noses and engaging in reforms which are being enacted before the bill has even reached parliament, which is in itself surely unconstitutional.
Andrew Lansley and Cameron will find it easy to shatter the NHS but, like Humpty Dumpty, it will be impossible to put together again. Politicians who make a mess of the NHS will not be forgiven by the electorate, but sadly it will be the patients who suffer.

Jacky Davis
Co-chair, NHS Consultants' Association

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror has more on the significant donations given to the Tory party from private healthcare companies.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

More Tories express reservations about NHS reforms

The slow-motion car-crash that is Andrew Lansley's 'big bang' reorganisation of the NHS - that the government comprehensively failed to mention prior to the general election - is continuing to garner more concern from across the political spectrum.

Sarah Wollaston, a Tory MP has already warned of the danger that GP consortia will be led into handing over control to private companies and now the cross-bench Health Select Committee - chaired by ex-Tory Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell MP has joined numerous other health groups in expressing deep concerns over the planned reforms.

Lord Robert Winston has also penned this piece for the Mirror stressing the need to avoid more organisational change - something that the National Audit Office is likely to endorse in its report due later this week.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Tories' poll share falls to single figures... (in Scotland)

If you want proof about just how different politics is north of the border, then you need look no further than the latest TNS/BMRB poll for the Sunday Herald.

According to its latest figures, Labour is set to gain 49% of the Holyrood Constituency vote... as big as the vote shares of the Tories (9%), the Lib Dems (7%) and SNP (33%) put together.

Many of the Tories' Coalition's key reforms - the dismantling of the NHS, the introduction of higher tuition fees for higher education - apply to England, not the other home nations. It is likely that in five years time, Scotland will be a very different (and no doubt more egalitarian) place than England.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

NHS Confederation sounds alarm over NHS reforms

The NHS Confederation has added to the health care debate by signalling its profound concerns over the government's NHS reforms in a new report.

Damningly, it argues that there is an "absence of any compelling story about why the reforms are necessary or how they will translate into improved outcomes".

The scale of the reforms proposed by the government - which open the door for the privatisation of much of the service - has united doctors groups, think-tanks and patient groups in expressing their opposition.

Importantly, the Tory party in opposition gave little indication that it intended to pursue reforms this far-reaching.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Tory press turns on Cameron...

Has Cameron's deliberately low-key campaign in Oldham and Saddleworth backfired somewhat? The Telegraph, the natural home Tory politics, seems to think so, with a slew of negative articles all in one day:
-  David Cameron made a fundamental mistake in fighting this by-election
In Oldham, David Cameron backed himself into a corner
A dreadful night for the Conservatives
In power, but not a winner: David Cameron's by-election problem
 
It's this kind of press coverage that might make those Tories pushing for an electoral deal with the Liberal Democrats think twice...

Friday, 14 January 2011

"GP commissioning is the bait to privatise the NHS"

This blog has made a point of regularly covering the government's proposed revolution in the NHS. It wasn't even announced pre-election, but now is in serious danger of destabilising the whole organisation - which currently is among the most fair and efficient of international health care systems - and opening the door for private companies to take over whole swathes of the service, making the service less democratic, potentially less fair and, ironically, almost certainly less efficient... something even a Tory MP has recently warned about - not to mentioned almost all of the major organisations representing NHS staff.

In today's Guardian, a GP from David Cameron's own constituency has written a letter condemning the plans, in response to some measured support from it from another GP. It deserves to be circulated wider:

GP commissioning is the bait which Howard Stoate [the chair of Bexley Clinical Cabinet] has swallowed whole. There are good arguments for greater involvement of GPs in designing healthcare pathways, which is why a quarter of us are already nibbling at the idea. But he fails to mention all the accompanying reforms which cleverly reinforce each other to create the conditions for the marketisation of the NHS, with its attendant profit motive and explosion in transaction costs.


No mention is made of abolition of the fixed national tariff for provision of each service. This will lead to a race to the bottom, where competitive tenders will be won by the cheapest bids, as quality is so difficult to measure. The current fixed tariffs ensure competition on quality alone. No mention of Monitor, the body which will ensure awarding of all contracts is subject to European competition law, so preventing GPs from "anti-competitively" supporting their local hospital, if there is an alternative cheaper private provider.

Choice is an illusion to foster the market for competing providers. As a GP, I am uncertain of quality differences between my local hospital consultants, let alone those from multiple providers. Patients stand little chance of making rational choices when outcome data is so easy to manipulate. They always ask for one good local hospital. GPs will inevitably be guided by health management professionals in their commissioning decisions, which the private sector is eager to exploit. Why didn't the white paper just put a few keen GPs in charge of the existing PCTs and save the £3bn being used to create the conditions for an insidious private takeover of our NHS?

Dr Brian Green
GP, Witney, Oxfordshire

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Justice For All campaign launches amid decimation of legal aid for poorest

This month, a coalition of over 1300 legal and advice agencies, politicians, trade unions, community groups and members of the public have launched Justice For All, whose stated aim is to "campaign to ensure everyone is treated fairly under the law, no matter who they are, how much money they have or where they live".
Members include Shelter, the homeless charity; Scope, who lobby on behalf of people with cerebal palsy; Citizens Advice Bureau and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

In a letter to the Guardian they announced:

"The government's green paper proposes scrapping most free legal help on employment, housing, welfare benefits and debt – for the sake of saving just 2.5% of the legal aid budget. This means that over half a million people, especially the most vulnerable, will be left defenceless. Rather than punishing the poor, the government should sort out the public administrative systems which create many of the problems in the first place. A recent study in Nottingham found that more than 40% of the demand for free legal help was generated by failures in the system".

What is most striking about many of the government's reforms is their focus on removing many of the protections that the very neediest in society currently receive. Today's announcement on changes to child support arrangements - that has sparked concern from Barnados, amongst others - is just the latest in a range of changes.

What all of these have in common is something familiar to the ethos of the US Republican Party - that it is churches and charities job to look after the poor, not the state. We are in an era of Tory, not coalition, rule.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Banking bonuses: Is THIS the line in the sand for the Lib Dems?

Last night, BBC's Newsnight held a debate on banking bonuses. What was striking was not only the sight of three panellists agreeing that the current situation is obscene - including the panel member presumably asked to be there to argue in favour of the sector's position - but also the repeated assertions by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott that the government still intents to crack down on excessive remuneration, despite recent media reports to the contrary.

Now, many people who take even a vague passing notice of George Osborne would realise that it is very, very unlikely that anything substantial will happen, beyond a collaborative bit of PR between the government and the sector. Nevertheless, Oakeshott's comments seemed to pin this down as a red line issue for the Lib Dems.

Now, to be fair Lord Oakeshott has been a consitent voice on this issue, time after time. His problem though, is whether Clegg, Alexander and the rest of the Lib Dem leadership truly feel the same. And if they don't and the government does complete its capitulation on this issue, will more Lib Dem members revolt or leave? Is this a line in the sand?

You can watch the debate here [jumps to relevant part of the programme]

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Is this the biggest betrayal of all? From a £2000 cap on bonuses to a 'tax cut' and hands-off approach for the banks

So, to add to the quite staggering list of false or broken promises made by Cameron pre-election, we can now include reform (or, more specifically the lack of reform) of remuneration in the banking sector.

Today's confirmation that the government seeks to do little or nothing about banker's bonuses - and even granting them a net tax cut, in many people's view - may well do great damage to the Conservatives. In opposition, the Tories had the strongest words to say about the banking system, and pronouncements of such strength were bound to have swayed the votes of a number of people in that it helped changed the view of their party.

Many people like to compare David Cameron with Tony Blair. But the comparison is a misguided one. The latter genuinely changed his party's policies - for better or worse - whilst Cameron (as his post-election programme on everything from the NHS to schools and social services have demonstrated) merely adapted his language and 'brand'. Consequently he convinced many thousands to change their votes.

It is nothing short of a betrayal of the voting public - on par with dropping of the Liberal Democrats' pledge on tutition fees - and a sad day for anyone interested in maintaining public interest in politics.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Boris pulls plug on educational trips for state school kids

Well if they want to be able to do educational visits they should've gone private! That, I assume, is the reasoning behind our esteemed Mayor's ending of his predecessor's scheme to encourage state school children to engage with the natural world. Neither ZSL London Zoo nor the Wetlands Centre are best pleased, even less so the hundreds of thousands of school children who will miss out from now on.

Still, on the plus side, this is the second vaguely anti-Boris article in the London Evening Standard in as many years, so at least that's a turn-up for the books.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Labour win in Prime Minister's own constituency

... so much for pro-government tactical voting then. The Tories didn't even field a candidate in yesterday's by-election in David Cameron's Witney constituency, meaning the anti-Labour vote was supposed to pile up behind the Lib Dems.

Instead, in a true-blue Tory heartland, Labour won with more than 60% of the votes cast.

Lib Dem councillor of 40 years defects to Labour

Welsh Lib Dem councillor John Warman, who has been a representative of the Liberal Democrats since 1972, has defected to Labour, citing the 'betrayal' of young people by the leadership of the party:

"I cannot abide hypocrisy in politics and what Clegg and the others in Government have done is unforgivable. They have abandoned a generation that looked to them for leadership... People are seeing that the coalition is just a Conservative government by another name."

'The Tories are rewriting history'

Ed Miliband has finally - albeit a tad late - started to fight back against the successful narrative that the Tories and their press allies have built up around the economy.

In the Tories' version of history, the banking crisis doesn't get a mention. Instead, the large debts that the country now faces were not caused thanks to the enormous £850 billion bailout of the banking sector, but were in fact created because Labour built too many hospitals, and spent too much money on teachers' wages... that kind of thing.

This narrative has, unfortunately, started to take hold. Ed Miliband's accusations in the last day or so that the Tories are 'rewriting history' have at least got some press coverage, thanks to an interview with the right-leaning Times and resultant follow-on coverage by Sky, the Guardian and politics.co.uk

If Labour are to even begin to reverse the Tories' narrative, they need to repeat endlessly the role that the banking crisis played in the current economic situation - and point out constantly that pre-2007, UK debt was in fact one of the lowest in the G7.

Update 11.00am: On a related note, it's interesting to hear that the government has now all but given up on attempting to restrict banking bonuses; and that huge rises in basic salaries of senior managers in the finance sector would have made these attempts rather redundant anyway.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Boris presides over record poor performance of the Underground

Anyone using the tube these days won't be surprised by the latest figures showing that December 2010 saw the worst month-on-month performance of tube services.

What they may be surprised about is the Mayor's continued, endless defence of bankers, at a time of huge bonuses for the latter and dramatic spending cuts and tax rises for everyone else... caused (despite the revisionist version of history propagated by the Tories) by the collapse of the major financial institutions in 2008.

What is clear is that Boris sees himself as immune to the kind of scrutiny that other politicians face, with carte blanche to act in the narrow interest of an elite section of society, all in the belief that his jokey persona will get him through. So, he feels he can increase fares for the poorest Londoners by over 40%, whilst removing the western c-charge, ditching the revenue it brings and ignoring the impact on congestion and quality of life for Londoners.

Let's hoping that 2012 will prove him wrong.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Most read Eton Mess posts of 2010

Eton Mess was first launched in the spring 2010. Below are links to the most-read posts on the blog since then.

All in all they are a neat cross-reference of articles that help illustrate why there is such a need (particularly in the face of such a passive mainstream media) to oppose a government intent on enacting an ideological programme of change on a country that by no means supported such action when it went to the polls last May.   

Tory voters want to tax the rich, a higher minimum wage and better workers rights

Baronss Warsi outed as Labour mole

Senior Tories accused of tax dodging

Tory Schools Minister on higher education

Nick Clegg's pledge never to form an alliance with the Tories

'The end of the NHS as we currently know it' (and why the NHS ranks amongst the most efficient health systems in the western world)

'Greenest government ever' torpedoes restrictions on congestion

We'll be getting a lot more of this...
Before the election, Cameron proclaimed that the Tories were likely to be the 'greenest government ever'.

Now, following numerous blows to this claim - many blamed on the deficit, as is so much of this coalition's ideological experiment - and others simply a return for the support of a small section of society -such as Boris' axing of the western c-charge - Eric Pickles has now completed the annihilation of this claim with a reversal of almost ten years of sustainable planning regulations.

So, no longer will developers need to restrict car usage and no longer shall local councils be encouraged to promote sustainable transport, be it public transport or walking. A sad day for those not keen to see US-style sprawling residential developments suitable only for cars, and therefore with negative consequences for community cohesion, for access for the elderly or those unable to drive and, of course, for congestion.

A failed ideology

Surely even the most ideological Tory must realise that congestion can't be beaten by endlessly promoting car use at the expense of peoples' quality of life and the environment? The irony of these changes is that those that ministers are trying to placate with these measures - the loonier end of the so-called motorist lobby - will be just as unhappy as before, as they will sit in ever longer traffic jams, cursing pedestrians, cyclists, roadworks, traffic safety measures, other motorists  -  cursing everything and everyone else, in fact, except themselves.  

The truth is that in the modern, crowded world, ruthless individualism - perhaps most clearly illustrated by the insistence of certain sections of society that there should be unfettered access to unlimited car use  - leads to endless problems. And traffic jams.