...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Day 2243: Don't You Just HATE It When You Click REPLY ALL By Mistake?


So there was Lord Blairimort having a little natter over the e-mail when, whoops, he goes and spams 1.8 million people. Oops!

That Blairimort e-mail in full:

"Tidy this up for me would you … Inspector Knacker's on his way round… I don't have time to deal with it… tell 'em to sod off and then double the road tax on anyone with an e-mail account."

Okay, Lord Blairimort's REAL e-mail was rather more fulsome… as in full of some of his usual GUFF.

I will try to pick out the IMPORTANT bits, and explain them:

Thank you for taking the time to register your views

[Your e-mail address has been added to the Labour campaign database; a note has been made on your MI5 file.]

…this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance.

[those are just handy side-effects]

We are, for now, working with some local authorities… And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas

[remember this for later]

One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad.

[also puppies are cute, trees are pretty, apple pie is yummy, and motherhood generally to be approved of]

Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015

[How do you compute "congestion" anyway? Is it the same as "traffic"? DO you count the cars on the road? Or is it some measure of how cars on the road are having no fun? Count the cars on the road that are not moving, perhaps? Count the complaints to the National Cone Hotline, maybe?]

Part of the solution is to improve public transport… We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows

[statistics blah blah blah… Lord Blairimort loves to pad things out with random figures showing how much MORE he has done than anyone else and how much EVEN more he is going to do in the future]

…we have a difficult choice to make…

[not actually a useful part of the e-mail, but Lord Blairimort always likes to get this in somewhere]

One option would be to allow congestion to grow unchecked… congestion could cost an extra £22 billion in wasted time in England by 2025, of which £10-12 billion would be the direct cost on businesses.

[Surely congestion would check itself eventually? If you build more roads you get more traffic on them because it makes it easier to go by road than find an alternative – wouldn't the REVERSE be true as well? As it gets more expensive to spend your time waiting in a traffic jam than taking another alternative then don't people start to switch? Isn't that what you want?]

A second option would be to try to build our way out of congestion… Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly

[Lord B is WARMING to his theme: if we do not tax you, it will cost you!]

It has been calculated that a national scheme - as part of a wider package of measures - could cut congestion significantly through small changes in our overall travel patterns

[this sounds promising – but what are the "small changes" that are required and might there be some other way of getting people to make them? This is the area that needs explaining!]

any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected

[well, Lord Blairimort's idea is that you should have a bleeper in your car that tells a little box by the roadside everywhere that you go so that the box can send you a charge for using that road. And people are worried that the government would find it just tooooo tempting to use those bleeper boxes to start tracking your car around. But there's an easy answer – swap the system around. If there is a bleeper by the roadside that sends out a price to a box in your car that records them like a taximeter, then the government only needs to know the final price at the end of the year, say when you have your MOT! As a bonus you can see what it is costing you to drive the way you do, and have a better incentive to change your behaviour!]

I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax"… there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation.

[unfortunately, earlier on Lord Blairimort said that congestion charging schemes would help pay for more local public transport – I told you to remember that. That IS raising more tax in order to have more SPEND. If you want to change what people choose to do, they have to see the benefit – and cash back in their own pocket is the way they like to see it]

The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.

[There's a first time for everything]

Yours sincerely, Tony Blair

[Strictly speaking, Lord Blairimort, you should sign off with "yours faithfully" if you are not addressing the recipient by name at the top… of course, you've always preferred the way your SINCERITY plays to the perception of your FAITHFULNESS.]

I think cars are LOVELY.

But Daddy has told me how very BAD they are.

But I still LOVE cars.

Maybe we could just wait for TOTAL GRIDLOCK and have all the cars PARKED then they could all sit there NICE and SHINY and with no pollution… no, no, no, that would never work.

Rather than trying to CRISIS MANAGE all this traffic, why not ask ourselves about the ROOT CAUSES. Or ROUTE CAUSES. Why are people travelling more and more, and what is clogging up all the roads that we have already.

The problem with road pricing – the problem with ANY tax that's supposed to change how people behave – is that people have to have an ALTERNATIVE! We have to give people a CHOICE so that they can feel GOOD about it, rather than just PUT UPON.

With one HUGE exception – which I will mention in a moment – we CAN do that. Our towns and cities could have a CONGESTION ZONE each, each with a nice big CAR PARK where people could sit and admire the shiny vehicles leave their cars and travel to work by BUS or HORSE and TRAP or even on FLUFFY FOOT (Daddy carrying me)!

The exception that I mentioned is of course LONDON. London is TOO BIG. Actually, that is just TRUE on its own. But it is also TOO BIG for Daddy to carry me anywhere on foot.

But our public transport is ALREADY stretched to capacity: trains are overpriced and overcrowded; buses are stuck in the same gridlock as the cars; and the London Tube is a many wheeled machine for squashing the happiness out of people.

Too many people are trying to come to London to WORK so what we need is to get them all nice jobs somewhere else.

Mind you, everywhere else people are travelling more and more too – to giant SUPERMARKETS and out of town retail parks where TOYS 'R' US is the size of STANSTEAD AIRPORT. (Which means the walk to the STAR WARS LEGO is too long!)

And all of these supermarkets mean loads and loads more goods on the roads.

What is clogging up the roads?

Well for a start there is LORRIES. Lorries do almost all of the damage to the road surface too, so lorries are the cause of all the resurfacing roadworks which mean even more traffic jams. So for a start you need to think about cutting down on all the STUFF that we are hauling all over the country and shifting as much of the rest off the roads and onto the railways as you can.

Of course, that means you've got to have railways that actually WORK.

It does not help that public transport does not go where people want it to go. Most of the railway lines, for instance, go to London – so you have to go to the capital to go back out again.

Then there are all those BOTTLE-NECKS caused by single-tracking. That was when they were making lots of railway CUTBACKS and the railway lines were turned from double-track (where trains can go both ways at once) to single-track (where you have to wait your turn like ladies at a tea-dance) in order to save half the maintenance. Doesn't half interfere with how many trains you can run on your line though.

And of course, there's the fact that it's almost impossible to make a profit from running a railway thanks to the BONKERS way that the Conservatories privatised it in the first place. Rail operating companies have to pay most of their money to "rent" the trains that they are operating from a train owning company. And then "rent" the track for a slot to run their train on. So no one has any incentive to try and IMPROVE the network – they're all too busy trying to make a buck from THEIR bit of it.

At the moment, it is CHEAPER to drive than to take the TRAIN. (And it is CHEAPER to FLY than to DRIVE!) That has GOT to be BACKWARDS!

What we need is a bit of JOINED UP GOVERNMENT. What we need is a better answer.

If you're REALLY SERIOUS about spending A HUNDRED AND FORTY BILLION POUNDS then why not spend it on something that might REALLY make a difference: build a proper railway freight network to move goods from factories to shops, from farms to markets, from ports to cities, from where things are made to where they are sold. Make it so that no lorry need ever go on a motorway again.

Or failing that, invent the TELEPORTER.

No comments: