And there we were thinking that the war against the car was over. All through the Blair years New Labour did its best to demonise the car. The era of Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad. The Congestion Charge (remember how we very nearly had one in Manchester too), draconian parking regulations, carpeting the country with speed cameras, cancelling 100 major road building projects, attempts to charge 4x4s £25 to enter London, speed bumps everywhere, Ken Livingstone famously saying that 'if I had my way I'd ban all cars", the John Prescott Memorial bus lane on the M4 and of course all Alistair Darling's raft of hated fuel duty escalators. Hopefully historians will represent this as a period of rabid anti-car sentiment from the Left. And hopefully they'll see that it wasn't just a hared of cars, but of middle-class people who drive shiny ones. Looking back, I wonder how we let so many left-wing politicians get away with so much thinly-veiled class hatred.
But today I read that The Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank with close links to both Ed Balls and Ed Milliband is calling for fuel duty to be doubled. They want higher fuel duty in the U.S and suggest that European countries should do the same to reduce congestion and pay for transport infrastructure projects. This is so simplistic and child-like its unbelievable. Both the US and UK have long established road economies and only a few major cities have joined up public transport systems. To try and pay through increased fuel duty for a usable, practical and efficient mass transportation system in either country would take decades and cost trillions upon trillions of dollars and pounds. The idea is totally absurd. But think-tanks like this, publishing half-formed thoughts dreamt up by someone in a luke-warm bath, often get surprising amounts of traction. The Blair Government certainly thought reducing road use was a good idea and I worry that both Milliband and Balls are of this persuasion too. Their silence on future road transport strategies is concerning.
The tragedy here is that there clearly are senior politicians who still don't understand that huge swathes of the population entirely depend on cars and vans to survive. To these people mobility is everything and they have no other choice. Public transport simply isn't a viable option for 90% of the population. Yet those same politicians want to take away that freedom of cost effective mobility because they feel its a bad thing. They think those hard-working people create too much pollution and congestion and should be denied the right of cheap movement. And those politicians don't understand that cancelling all those road building projects has caused congestion and pollution and that decades of under-investment in our road system is why things are so bad. Free flowing traffic causes much less pollution than lines of immobile cars all with their engines idling impotently. Its the absence of good sense and well-researched information about road transport in the UK that worries me.
The war on the car isn't over yet and we should all be concerned that certain corners of Westminster still haven't seen the light. We at FairFuelUK have done our utmost to control fuel duty and proved the benefits. Does this left-leaning think tank really believe that the uplift in GDP we've created by having cheaper pump prices is a negative? Do they really think that the increased economic activity because of more affordable transport costs should stop? Why aren't they telling us that we should increase investment and usage of low-emission and electric cars. Why aren't they suggesting that the U.S and U.K become world leaders in zero-emission technology? Because they only know one reflexive reaction to car and van use. Make it so expensive that we're all forced to jump on a public transport system that doesn't exist. Like Ken Livingstone, if the Left had its way, they'd ban all cars completely. Sad, but true.