Like a bored toddler, Rishi Sunak seems to have abandoned his five-point plan for the UK’s recovery in favour of a populist attention-grab about drivers that is disingenuous, to say the least.
Look at this rubbish:
We are a nation of drivers.
Most of us use a car every day and, for many, life would be difficult without their car.
But too often, drivers feel under attack.
That changes today with a long-term plan to improve drivers' experience on the road.
Here’s how 👇🧵 pic.twitter.com/yJvotPyyYy
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) September 30, 2023
The UK was not always a nation of drivers.
It would be more accurate to say that we were pushed (nudged?) into increased use of cars by a decades-long Tory attack on public transport (I seem to recall they said they were giving us more choice by forcing us into personal transport, rather than public transport like buses and trains).
Tory-aided businesses that withdrew from local shopping parades to centralised or out-of-town malls added to that reliance by forcing us to travel further for our basic necessities.
And of course the increased emphasis on individuals driving wherever they wanted put vehicles in the hands of lunatics who insisted on driving dangerously, having collisions and generally creating a huge threat to the lives of themselves and anybody around them.
If we had better, cheaper public transport (in other words, not run as profit-making businesses by owners in foreign governments) and if businesses had not been encouraged to increase profits for the tiny minority of shareholders who benefit from them, the UK might not be as reliant on the automobile for its transport needs.
And that might make it a safer place.
In addition, much is currently being made of the fact that most cars still run on petrol and diesel – fossil fuels – rather than the emerging, cheap, clean fuels that won’t ruin the environment but aren’t money-makers for huge petro-chemical conglomerates.
Sunak and the Tories have supported those fossil-fuel giants for generations; they are contributors to the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change.
And his response to measures aimed at putting a stop to these problems, and improving our lives, is to try to put a stop to them.
He has already delayed a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars for five years – much to the disgruntlement of manufacturers who have lost the certainty they previously had about the future of their industry.
Now he wants to stop the introduction of “blanket” 20mph speed limits and LTNs – Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – which This Writer had understood to be linked with the idea of “15 minute cities”, where essential amenities are always intended to be within a 15-minute walk.
This would require those businesses that had withdrawn to out-of-town malls and centralised business districts to come back out to the people they serve, instead of making us go to them – and it would be easy to conclude that those firms may have leaned on Sunak to change his policy.
And it is his policy; these measures were introduced by the Conservatives.
Remember also that the Welsh government expects the 20mph speed limits to save up to 100 lives and prevent 20,000 casualties within 10 years.
Sunak can’t even get his story right:
Sweet mother of God. He's a broken machine at the end of a pier. https://t.co/xJdeI41Vx2
— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) September 29, 2023
Why is Rishi Sunak railing against a blanket 20mph speed limit when it doesn’t exist? Does he really take the British people for fools?
— Matthew Stadlen (@MatthewStadlen) September 30, 2023
And he isn’t the only one. Look at this response to Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s attempt to demonise left-wingers and the “Metropolitan bubble” (whatever that is) with false claims that we “vilify” the private car:
He's got a point. I spent all morning giving my car a right old vilifying. Most of the neighbours doing the same. https://t.co/uuCiOhfE7A
— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) September 30, 2023
Let’s put the record straight. I live in one of the most rural counties in the UK, where public transport under a penny-pinching Tory government simply isn’t a viable means of getting about; we have buses and trains but they are few and far between, operating only at profitable times. I have to have a car to get about.
I would like that car to run on renewable fuels but I don’t currently have the wherewithal to buy such a vehicle. I hope that will change when they become the default but am frustrated by Sunak’s decision to delay the moment when that will happen.
Being in Wales, 20mph speed limits have already been imposed in my town – but not in a “blanket” way, and to be honest, such a “blanket” limit would probably be better. At the moment, constant changes between 20mph and 30mph zones are confusing and may cause motorists to fall foul of traffic police if we fail to realise we’ve passed from one zone to another and are breaking speed limits.
I don’t think there can be an argument for leaving the limits at 30mph in residential areas or near schools and shops; that is just begging for more road collisions and casualties.
As for LTNs and 15-minute cities – bring them on! My small town does have a range of shops within a 15-minute walk (if you’re able-bodied) – but we still don’t have access to everything we need. The banks have been withdrawing from this, and all nearby towns, forcing us only for our banking and business needs. And if the few cashtills that are left run out of notes, we become a cashless society whether we want to or not.
So here’s the common-sense response to Sunak’s silliness:
I cannot get my head around Sunak believing that reducing the number of 20 mph zones and opposing people being able to walk to the shops is the route to election victory. Is he really that cut-off from real life?
— JWExTheSpa (@SpaJw) September 29, 2023
Sunak’s arguments simply don’t make sense. This Writer can only conclude that he may have an ulterior motive that has more to do with the demands of profit-motivated businesses than the needs – and health – of the general public.
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