…Darren Johnson bellyflops – a shame, because what he said could have been fine if he’d approached it slightly differently. (It’s time to be millenarian.) On Monday’s PM, he said about that fuel duty should be put up in order to ‘wean people off fossil fuels and encourage the alternatives.’ I happen to agree that in the long term fuel duty should increase and VAT should be lessened. However, lots of people disagreed.
Letters to Radio 4’s PM included several rural dwellers who were outraged, asking how they are supposed to get about. It’s the point my mum had already made – she lives in a village 6 miles away from the nearest station and with a bus once a week. Actually, I don’t believe in this bus – in thirty years, I’ve never seen a bus anywhere near Tibenham. Where I live, it’s easier for me to get to London by public transport than the local town a few miles away (lucky I have a bike, then). Johnson’s argument for ‘reducing public transport fares and so on, making the alternatives more attractive’ is fair enough – so long as there are alternatives: in many parts of the country, as his PM partner Quentin Willson pointed out, there are no alternatives.
It’s the private schools dilemma. General wisdom is that the existence of private schools is deleterious to state schools, as the best pupils are creamed off. In order to raise the standards of state schools, should we first abolish private schools? That would be very difficult: there are few parents who would send their child to a state school if they could afford a private school, whatever principles they might hold. More preferable would be to try to raise state school standards by other means to provide an alternative to private schools, as happens in certain areas.
Fuel duty must at some point increase, but not until there are adequate alternatives. Let’s re-nationalise the railways, and – forgetting hubristic schemes like the high speed rail network – let’s re-open, wherever possible, branch lines. Let’s have cheap rail fares. Let’s have regular rural bus services. And let’s try to localise food production and distribution wherever possible, so that there’s less need for lorries.
The letters to PM also included a the point that Britain’s total CO2 emissions are a drop in the ocean. That’s a poor argument – rather akin to the classic pupil’s excuse, when told off for talking, of ‘but so-and-so was talking too…’
If charity begins at home, so should everything else. Our society and economy are too centralised, and it’s doing few people (and certainly no other species) any good. It’s time to localise.