London Transport: Tories said Ken’s fares were too high. Mayor Boris backtracks.

Although Red Ken’s “high fares” were an issue for Tory campaigners, Boris Johnson appears to be backtracking on that assertion quite considerably – he now argues that fares are too low to be “reasonable”.

In an interview with The London Paper, Boris Johnson argues that there are “real pressures” on TFL’s finances, caused by chronic and historic failures. Thus, it can be concluded that Boris believes passengers are not paying fairly for the services TFL provides.

I seriously doubt that any Londoner – especially with the recession hitting as it is – will be in agreement with Boris’s assertion. I, as  a London transport user, certainly don’t. Already the fares have risen by 6%. A bus journey currently costs £1.10 on the Oyster card for a single journey. I often take the bus from my home in Greenwich to Holborn, mostly at weekends – because out of sheer luck in finding the property I did, I do not need to commute to get to University. But what if I needed to, and couldn’t wake up early enough to take the bus? Near enough five pounds a day if I lived outside of Zone 3 and used either the trains (that accept Oyster pay and g0) or the Underground. I’d very likely be living outside of Zone 3 because I can’t afford to move closer to Central London. So let’s say roughly £5 a day – £25 per week? In some cases, this is up to a third of a Londoner’s income over a year. If Boris believes this is unreasonably low, I beg to differ.

Boris is right about one thing – TFL is in trouble, there are finance issues. However, as I recall, Ken left TFL at least in some sort of balance. It appears that throughout Mayor Boris’s period in office, a huge gaping hole has been blown in the TFL budget – firstly, the halving of the congestion charging zone. Whilst the western extention of the congestion charge has not yet been scrapped, the loss of revenue is estimated to be around £50 – £70 million. However, the cancellation of the £25 gas guzzler charge has given TFL a 50 million projected loss. And this is before one factors in the cost of the Routemaster vanity project  – currently projected to cost TFL between £653m and £766m. I guess it’s little wonder that Mayor Boris thinks we pay too little to cover the hole in TFL’s finances – but not for the service Londoners get. No, we need to pay more because Boris wants his schoolboy fantasy on the road.

However, there’s little indication of what a later fare rise could be – Deutsche Bank have estimate 11%, but no official confirmation as yet.

Which prompts me to say this to our beloved Mayor:

Stop bloody lying to us, tell us if fares need to rise, why they need to rise or go and play with your Routemaster in the Transport Museum.

Yours, a lefty blogger and disgruntled fare payer.

Breaking news: Labour win Heworth ward, York.

Literally just got this one through – Labour have won in Heworth ward, York.

Full results:

Labour 876

Lib Dem 608

Conservative 591

Green 302

BNP 192

Monster Raving Loony 25

Congratulations to Labour in York and all involved on the doorsteps of York, looks like the Lib Dems put up a hefty challenge. Congratulations are definately in order!

Temporary break

As I’m currently packing my life into several boxes and preparing to move back to London, I won’t be writing many blogposts.

Hope to return to normal duty once I’m back and settled…but until then, it’s a temporary goodbye for now!

Tories: Tough on Duncan, not Hannan.

So, after developing his political career at the Boris Johnson school of self-promotion (with passes in ill-informed ranting and appearing on Have I Got News For You), Alan Duncan has decided to leave his Cabinet position and take voluntary (?) demotion.

Seen as there’s no comment from Duncan, and vague “he made a terrible mistake but I didn’t sack him” comment from Cameron – so there’s no evidence to suggest that there’s been a forced demotion. The decision was taken after a meeting with Cameron earlier in the day.

I’m no flag-waver for Alan Duncan and I couldn’t care less if he leaves the Shadow Cabinet. But what I cannot fathom is why, in a tale of two Tories making scandalous comments about topics that have inflamed public anger, Duncan is the only one who’s come off badly. Hannan’s comments were equally offensive, if not more so in my personal opinion.

Duncan believes himself to be a “lightening conductor” for public anger. I can understand that there was considerable anger at his remarks and rightly so. Yes, they were ill informed and highly offensive. But there is a huge difference between making stupid remarks and trashing the NHS abroad – which Dan Hannan was doing around the time Duncan made his comments! Does anyone see the same condemnation of Hannan or even a “meeting” resulting in a later demotion? Oh hang on, Hannan was promoted!

Both of the incidents with Hannan and Duncan were damaging enough to the Tories – but in my opinion, Hannan’s NHS trash-talking of the NHS was offensive to more than just the public – it undermined a whole workforce, the countless lives saved by the system and the basic human right of access to healthcare! Yet he gets promotion and Duncan is vilified, to the point of believing that he’s a liability to the Tories’ electoral success:

“What matters most is the winning the election and David Cameron becoming the prime minister. [..] I don’t want to be a brake on that by making a difficult issue more problematic. I am very happy to get stuck into another job.”

He echoes this sentiment on Twitter too (well, if it really is him – apparently Tweetminster is “verifying” him).

Meanwhile, his replacement is being announced tomorrow.

Quick ascension and quick fall down – how classic in Tory politics.

Update: Tweetminster confirms that @AlanDuncanMP is actually fake.

Reports from the Burston School Strike Rally 06/09/09

Once again, on the first Sunday of September, the village of Burston became host to a day of trade union marching, speeches and music (from a fantastic Cuban band, commemorating 50 years since the Cuban revolution) from 11am – 4pm. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, the event annually celebrates the Burston School Strike of 1914 – 1939, where pupils and parents walked out of the council run Village School, setting up the strike school to ensure that the children still had an education. The strike fought against the principles of the Education Act (which ensured the retaining of the educational status quo) and the interruption of the pupil’s study by landowners using the children as cheap labour when it suited them.

According to the Unite organisers, the weather was going to be pretty good. Although I wasn’t available to go last year, I did hear that a deluge plagued the event. Not so this year – it seemed more like early summer than early autumn. I arrived at around 10am, met up with the other comrades, wandered around the trade union stalls and listened to the speeches. Unfortunately, Tony Benn was unable to speak, citing illness. So the schedule was slightly altered, a band was introduced early and the march through Burston village started at 12:25pm.

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We were pretty surprised that Richard Howett MEP joined us on the march – but delighted! The march lasted just over 45 minutes, I’m sure the villagers of Burston were delighted to be treated to a plethora of union flags visible over their hedges. Some were stopping by people’s farms to buy eggs and apples on route (who said we didn’t have time to support local business?)

After the march finished, it was back to the Village Green to watch the remaining speeches. Richard Howett was first to speak for the afternoon – excellent speech about being a proud socialist and Europe’s commitment to global social justice and equality.

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The last speech of the day came from a Cuban representative, who had been active in the Cuban solidarity movement for several years. Afterwards, the audience were treated to a closing performance from a Cuban band. I could spot several people in the audience dancing and waving Cuban flags. Perfect way to end a fantastic day and a fantastic event.

Here’s to next year.

The BNP on the Beeb: Exposing their rhetoric

No doubt Nick Griffin must be basking in some delight – triumph in the European Elections, the BNP performing well in council elections and getting invited onto BBC Question Time, as Times Online reports.

The Corporation must have known this move would cause controversy – several Labour MPs and one cabinet minister have pledged to boycott the show.

The BBC have defended their actions, stating that the BNP had gained “electoral support at a national level” and thus deserve more airtime. I’m inclined to agree – up to a point. We chose to live under democracy – and unfortunately, however vile and evil the BNP’s views are, they are elected and the BBC has a duty to be as representative as possible. It has always made me sick to my stomach that the BNP can claim any sort of representation of anybody, but the fact that they have several councillors, a GLA member and two MEPs unfortunately states otherwise.

The rights and wrongs aside, I think Griffin’s appearence on Question Time could be one of the best chances that Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems have to confront the leader as a representative of his party – if not the best representative! I’ve always argued that the far right always inflict more damage when out of public scrutiny – the BNP haven’t come out of nowhere. They’ve built up from their small gains in Millwall in the 1990s to having 6.5% of the national vote. The party themselves know that electorally they have legitimacy – and if continually blocked from publicity will claim themselves to be political martyrs. They already do – and this feeds into the working classes general disengagement from “traditional politics”. Anyone see a pattern emerging?

Of course the BNP will use Question Time as an outlet for their views. Every fringe party does. But we have a duty to oppose them and expose the BNP’s arguements for what they are – spiteful and ill-informed rhetoric with not a jot of evidence to back up their claims. So I was pretty dismayed to say the least when I discovered that Labour MPs are refusing to share a platform with them. If we do this, we might as well hand victory to the BNP straight away – we’ve already tried this approach. Not only has it got us nowhere, it’s actually done the complete opposite, as the EU elections proved. What’s the point in continuing with an approach if it’s counterproductive?

I know from personal experience that people respond better if you go face the far right and expose them. For example, many people I have spoken to have reacted angrily when I tell them that BNP members – even some councillors and organisers for the party have committed many criminal offences. And we’re not talking traffic crimes here – crimes such as making and distributing indecent images of children, keeping the largest haul of explosives ever discovered in the UK and mass bombings. No-one is a saint sure, but I do doubt that a party with so many criminal convictions can be considered “patriotic” if they persistantly break the laws of the land they take so much apparent pride in. It’s a blatant hypocrisy. Of course there are many, many other things the BNP can be challenged on – e.g. the sickening views on rape promoted by Greater London Authority candidate Nick Eriksen.

Labour shouldn’t be refusing to share a platform. That’s what Griffin wants – so don’t give him the ammunition to feed into his “self-interested politicians” and “standing up for the common man” message. We know it’s a falsehood – if the BNP really was supporting the “common man”, why are all their election leaflets to do with the BNP as a party and absolutely zero content on local issues? These sorts of questions need answering – and in order for us to expose the answer, we need to face them. If the BNP are in the public eye, there’s no better way to expose their empty arguments and the vermin behind the veneer.

Burston School Strike Rally

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On Sunday, the annual Burston School Strike rally will take place at Burston Church Green at 11am – 4:30pm, commemorating the longest running strike in history.

In April 1914, Kitty and Tom Higdon were sacked from the Burston Village School by the landed gentry for their socialist and trade union views. In response, the pupils walked out in support, setting up the Strike School and ensuring that pupils had accsess to an education. This lasted until 1939, making it the longest strike in history. While times have changed, the struggle started a movement towards social justice and democracy in the countryside, which continues in the Labour movement today.

In addition to this year’s rally, union representatives will also be marking the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

The event promises to be a good one this year – and also a momentous one for us in South Norfolk Labour – we’ll be making our first presence at the event, with the PPC for South Norfolk, Mick Castle.

Apparently the weather forecast is fine – like I’d be put off by a bit of rain! No, I’ll be there with South Norfolk Labour and enjoying the day.