Went to ministerial drinks last night. Totally new Department press team who asked me things like had I ever been there before. Sweet. Meeting Geoff Hoon for the first time was like a déjà vu. He was exactly like he is on TV: superficially charming but patronising and smug, a man who clearly had no compunction sending hundreds of British troops to their death for no good reason. And still in post!
He did not give away much except that it is clear the Cabinet is split over the third runway at Heathrow – he said it was just split at the edges, but it is clear that it is split down the middle – except that he said something remarkably stupid: ‘travel is a good thing,’ he said, ’I am trying to persuade my Cabinet colleagues of this’.
Well no, Geoff, travel is not per se a good thing. Of course getting around to see your grandma in Manchester or going walking in the Peak District is a positive experience, but much travel is a pain in the neck. Few people jump on the bus or get in their car in the morning for a struggle in traffic jams thinking, ‘wow what fun it is to travel’. If the government adopts planning and transport policies that, say, encourage people to live further away from their work, then the experience is entirely negative. Or is it really a ‘good thing’ if air fares are priced not to take account of environmental damage and stag parties travel to Estonia on Ryanair?
I suppose the thing that the likes of Hoon has not yet learnt is the idea of sustainability. Sure, he mumbled something about the environment as he said his piece, but it is clear that he just said it because he felt he ought to. Surely, are we not beginning to learn the notion that unbridled travel is a negative, that even without considering issues of climate change and pollution, the sheer amount of infrastructure required to service it is making our towns and cities unbearable, and eating into our ever diminishing countryside. Hoon’s philosophy seems to show no awareness of that at all.