Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Coalition Walks the Walk

A couple of significant news bites, one formal, one less so, have emerged from the early stirrings of the UK’s new government, The Coalition (which sounds like it should be a band). First, the news that David Cameron is wont to “escape the bubble” by walking the couple of hundred yards from 10 Downing Street to the Palace of Westminster. This has apparently put the Secret Services in a flutter, according to last Saturday’s Times (no link, Murdoch’s paywall will be up soon!). Perhaps the spooks will prevail, but in the meantime it’s great to see that DavCam is following DEFRA’s advice, by exemplifying active travel. (see page 53 of DEFRA’s 2008 publication, A Framework for Pro-environmental behaviours.)  Second, yesterday’s news, as reported in the Guardian’s story, “Sorry Minister, You’ll Have to Take The Tube”, that the first £6bn instalment of the massive deficit-reduction cuts in the pipeline includes the axing of most ministerial cars. 

Ministers will be expected to walk, use public transport or pooled cars where possible. Assuming that it’s implemented, it’s hard to over-state the importance of this move. Apart from saving money, it should bring politicians closer to the people they are supposed to represent, removing them from the insulated cocoon of the ministerial limo – one way in which politicians used our money to distance themselves from us. And it has powerful symbolic value, since members of government will be able to be authentic when they say “do as I do”, rather than the more usual “do as I say.” And is it too optimistic to imagine that we can start to expect a more rational transport policy to emerge, if those who make such policy are also expected to bear the consequences? For example, would UK rail privatisation have been botched so spectacularly if those who made the key decisions were required, like the rest of us, to live with the consequences?

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