Boris flounders

I just wonder how long it will take before David Cameron wishes that Boris – why are London mayors always called by their first names – won the mayoral election. For Boris faces a dilemma, which was clearly exposed by the rapid departure of Tim Parker, the hatchet man he had appointed as deputy mayor.
The problem can be neatly expressed: how can Boris set out a distinct transport policy without pissing off – to use Alistair Darling’s favourite expression – much of his electorate? The ideological impasse is obviously causing him angst: Tories generally favour individualistic solutions rather than collective ones, but transport needs in London, or indeed in any major city, can only be solved by an emphasis on the collective.
Kulveer Ranger, Boris’s principal transport adviser, rather let the cat out of the bag when he suggested that there should be no hierarchy of transport users but instead everyone should have the opportunity to use the roads. That That is just plain naive nonsense. He was roundly attacked in Transport Times for the suggestion and his response, in this month’s issue, is decidedly weak, 800 words of platitudes like ‘the same person can at times be a cyclist, a pedestrian, a tube traveller or a motorist. Well, Kulveer, the problem is that in central London very few of us are motorists and even in the suburbs there is a high usage of the bus services which Ken did much to improve.
Kulveer tells us: ‘The old dogma that the car is an evil form of transport that must be forced off the roads simply doesn’t fit with the reality of living in London’. That is a typical red herring. No one has characterised car use as ‘evil’, merely as unsuitable and uneconomic when the externalities it brings in its wake far exceed the benefits.
Yes, of course in outer London some journeys still have to be done by cars, but even in those towns centres, much can be done to make them more attractive to cycling, walkers and public transport users. Discouraging people from using cars makes sense at both the individual and the collective level. It is you, Kulveer, and Boris if he follows your advice, who are out of touch with the needs of Londoners. If Boris tries to bring in pro-car policies that lead to greater congestion, slower bus times and more gridlock, Cameron may rue the day that Ken lost.

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