Archive for December, 2005

Once a red Ken, always a red Ken

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Ken Livingston became the first Mayor of London in May 2000 by a staggering margin (40% of first preference votes). It was generally hoped that such a maverick character would ensure the running of London would be non-partisan. After all, this was the guy that was kicked out of the Labour party when he decided to run as in independent candidate (after failing to convince Tony and chums that he was the best man for the job), so it was widely felt that he was in a prime position to serve the interests of the whole of London, and not just Whitehall.

5 years on, and I'm really struggling to see what's improved in London. He appointed Bob Kiley as the man to sort out the mess that's the tube. He was paid handsomely for doing this, a £2m four year contract with a nice little £2m Belgravia pad thrown in. But unfortunately, Bob was too busy fighting the PPP (public private partnership), a fight that he spectacularly lost that cost yet more dosh in exorbitant legal fees. But as it also sapped all of his time and energy, he didn't actually get round to managing the tube system at all. So, poor old Bob decided last month that enough was enough and resigned from his position. Well, as it transpires, not quite. His indispensable services are still to be used in the form of a consultancy, at a meager £1m per year. Oh and he gets to keep his Belgravia townhouse, all in all not bad for a 70 year old.

As for the tube. I can only speak from experience and I have to say that the improvement has been quite staggering. Staggeringly invisible. Try getting on the central line on a Sunday and you're greeted by locked stations and an hour wait for a "replacement bus service". Sometimes, just for the hell of it, they also close the Piccadilly line so that if you live in west London you are utterly stuffed. And that's without mentioning the joke that's the District line. The Hornby train set I had when I four years old was considerably more reliable and a damn sight faster than the District line is today. How about a name change from District Line to "Hope-you're-not-in-a-rush-because-this-pathetic-excuse-for-a-train-will-stop-every-
-30-seconds-for-no-apparent-reason" Line? Or perhaps something a bit snapper, like "Shit" line. And when these lines do manage to re-open (late on Monday morning), do we get improved stations, cleaner tubes, more punctual service? Nope. It just the same as ever. The Jubilee line, the youngest of all of them, is hardly ever open at weekends because of engineering works – they forgot to build the platforms long enough!

Of course, them good ol' RMT boys have decided to go out on strike over new year – ruining 1000's of people's celebrations. Complete miserable sods. The one thing Ken could do with the tube is (somehow) get rid of Bob Crow – the militant moron leader of the RMT union, who's only mission in life is to find ever more pathetic excuses for his lazy arsed workers not to go to work. I mean really, have you ever seen what a central line tube "driver" actually does? Because the trains are pretty much fully automated, they don't actually have to DO anything! (with the exception of counting their vast pay packet – they get paid considerably more than nurses, teachers, firemen etc etc…the usual list).

Ken proudly announces an improved bus service across London. Yes, we've got more buses – far too many of the damn things! The amount of traffic they cause clogging up the roads whilst queuing behind yet another bus at a bus stop is legendary. The roads in London simply are not designed to take that many buses. Especially now that conductors have been banished (why?) and with the introduction of those demented bendy buses. Which genius decided that these ridiculous contraptions would work on London roads? I strongly suspect that whoever it was never actually make it to London, and certainly never rode a bike near one of those death machines. A year or so ago, these bendy buses were spontaneously catching fire whilst on the road. This was assumed to be mechanical failure, but it wasn't at all, it was suicide. They might just work with a few modifications. Say, cut the thing in two, shove one half on top of the other and staple the two halves together with a staircase. Voilà. Hang on a minute…

Congestion charge. Another money spinning idea, dreamt up by a team of academic sprouts. The charge zone is going to be extended towards west London, and will displace the traffic towards Hammersmith. Here's a top tip for anyone yet to drive around Hammersmith roundabout: take a picnic. A large one.

So where does this money go? It pays for CCTV on every single street in central London (yet more hideous street furniture to the already congested pavements) and a vast legion of clamping cars, spying vans and patrol cars. Yet more money squandered. What has happened to the streets in the zone? The vacuum has been filled with crappy white vans, knackered taxis and inappropriate buses, all pumping out more toxic diesel fumes than ever before. Why don't we have electric buses and taxis? Is it because they can't be taxed like a normal London motorist?

And finally, Ken has the audacity to publish a newspaper called "The Londoner" at our expense which is nothing but 100% pure and utter propaganda. It really is a publication from the Ministry of Truth (1984). Everything is apparently getting better, trains are faster and cheaper, crime is going down, stations are cleaner, buses are redder, everyone is happy, the sun shines more, cancer and poverty have disappeared and no doubt we're winning the war against Eurasia. Or is that Eastasia.

So, under Ken's rule, my bus fare has more than doubled, the tube fair increases are well above inflation year upon year and I there's an £8 daily tax to drive my car into town.

I would love to know where my money's gone. Ah yes, I remember, it's paying for Lord Bob of Belgravia.


Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

The new acronym in town (Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, 2005), was given a stern test last night by a bunch of fearsome, aggressive, militant…carol singers. This savage mob of Jinglebellers was attempting to test this ludicrous law to its limits by arranging a gathering of people to sing some carols. The test was whether the Police would interpret this gathering as some kind of "protest" and so chuck everyone in jail. Unfortunately for the blood-thirsty media, the police were far too busy mugging motorists to pay much attention, or just maybe they were told what idiots they'd look had they try to intervene.

Just in case you were not aware, those free spirited parliamentarians that you voted for, decided to create a law that makes any form of protest an offence, within 1/2 mile of the houses of parliament. Oh, unless you obtain prior permission from, erm…the police. Yes, yes, this really is Britain in 2005. I was having a good whinge about it to a hairdresser yesterday during my annual pre-xmas chop, and found he was genuinely quite astonished to hear that this law even existed. I then wondered how many other people live in this world of apathetic, blissful ignorance? Probably far too many. This still doesn't excuse him for giving me possibly the worst haircut I've ever had (and I've had some bad ones, believe me).

So, I thought I'd go and check it out. I managed to infiltrate these almost-protesters by cunningly disguising myself as a bloke who'd just left the office. Clever eh. I obtained a "carol service sheet" (no doubt a coded Al Qaeda training manual) and proceeded to sing deck-the-halls and other assorted gems for the next 60 minutes. My apologies to the lady in the red hat in front of me who's ears were at the same level as my gob. I suspect it was obvious that I hadn't sung a carol for years and her trauma was apparent by her constant necking of whiskey.

Brain Haw was ranting about not being able to rant, the diminutive and gutsy Maya Evans was there looking a bit startled with her recent accent to cause celebre status, there was also a lone hoodie, some young kids (tomorrows hoodies), me (an older hoodie) and the remainder of the 100 or so singers were just…..people, utterly normal people who happen to share a belief that what is happening is wrong. 100 people doesn't sound very much, but perhaps everyone else was too busy doing important stuff, like Christmas shopping or getting hammered at the annual office toe-curling party. But we all have an MP who represents us and a 10 minute letter with a 30p stamp can be surprisingly effective. But apathy's a very debilitating condition and I've found that it does go away if ignored for long enough.

Incidentally, every Sunday there is going to be a picnic outside the houses or parliament. Obviously this won't be a protest or demonstration of any kind. Just a nice little picnic…

No inquiry into 7/7 bombings…surprise surprise.

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

So, Charles Clarke's decided not to hold a public enquiry into the 7/7 bombings. One of the most serious terrorist incidents, certainly one of the most significant, ever to take place within these shores and apparently there's nothing to learn from it, no questions need to be answered, no forum considered for grieving relatives or the crippled victims, no racial issues to be addressed, nothing, nothing, nothing. Instead, it will be brushed under the carpet and we're just supposed to accept the government's account of events and circumstances.

Well I'm sorry you big eared control (order) freak, but that's simply not good enough. The track record of accountability, openness and fairness isn't too great under this government. We trusted you with Iraq's WMD and that turned out to be a great big pile of steaming horse manure – you blew all your Trust Credit on that one pal.

So victims groups have called for a public enquiry, so has Iqbal Sacranie from the Muslim Council of Britain, so have both opposition parties, the media, in fact everyone has! So what are you hiding from? What are you determined to keep under wraps? To try and fob us off with some insipid, limp-wristed, wishy-washy "narrative of events" chaired by some government civil servant (can you see the strings?) is staggeringly stupid. This one really will not go away.

The cover-up culture seems to have spread to Jack S-S-S-S-Straw, who recently refused a public enquiry into the UK's involvement in the US's "extraordinary rendition" policy (erm, torture). One of these days the lid will come off this government and we'll all watch in horror as the sleaze slowly oozes out and only then will we really find out how much damage President Blair has done. It feels increasingly like they've already given up the election in 3 years time – so what do they care?

The Pirates of Parliament

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

There is a law in this wonderful country that was passed earlier this year that makes demonstrating outside the houses of parliament an arrestable offence. This can be found under section132 of the Serious Organised and Police Act and was brought in specifically against one man, Brain Haw, who has been peacefully protesting against the Iraq invasion outside parliament for the past 4 years. Unfortunately, the government screwed up a bit, and when the act became law, they still couldn't remove him because he'd started his protest beforehand. So Brain is still there protesting legally outside the houses of Parliament – the place which is, ironically, the embodiment of democracy to many.

Today, Maya Evans was found guilty of breaching this odd little law because of her own anti-war protest. This was held at a well known London monument, called the Cenotaph, and involved reciting the names of the British soldiers killed in Iraq, accompanied by the sound of a small bell being struck between each name. You may have noticed that the Cenotaph is indeed a war memorial itself (built in 1919, and is used at a certain time of the year to remember British soldiers who died in a different war), but because she now needs permission to protest within 1/2 mile of Parliament, she was arrested, banged up in a cell for 5 hours and now has to pay court fines. Oh, and she's also now the proud owner of her very own criminal record. I'm not totally convinced that this constitutes Serious Organised crime, but I'm no lawyer so I could be wrong. I also didn't consider Walter Wolfgang too much of a terrorist threat either, but I'm no policeman so what do I know.

And all because Tony Blair can't handle criticism.

In 1933, Chancellor Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution that permitted the suspension of civil liberties which included the expression of opinion. He didn't particularly like criticism either.

And now we have the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer stating that it is ridiculously overdone to claim that free speech is being undermined. I wonder what is his definition of free speech? The fact that this law was made in the first place because of a single person's protest is jaw-dropping. The fact the it has now been used against someone else is stomach-churning. The half mile democracy-free zone is sure to go the same way as Ken Livingston's congestion charge….get bigger…and bigger….and….bigger…