Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Why I’m voting for Paddick – with a transfer to Livingstone

Gherkin2Like a lot of people of my broad political persuasion, I’ve been finding it very difficult to decide how to vote in tomorrow’s election for London’s mayor. Despite the importance of the post, the choice boils down to what one considers the least evil.

I’m a Labour supporter, and would vote Labour without a second thought if we had a regular Labour candidate. However, I’d prefer London’s mayor to be a Tory rather than a genuine extremist of right or left; I’d vote Tory if it were the only way to keep out the BNP or Lindsey German and the Left List.

Ken Livingstone is half-way between the Labour mainstream and left-wing extremism. He was resolute in supporting NATO over the liberation of Kosova and in condemning the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London (though his condemnation was shamefully marred by his description of the bombing victims as ‘working class’ – as if middle-class victims were less worthy). He has some real achievements as mayor to his credit, above all running an efficient bus service, something that I, who grew up in the 1980s and remember the horrors of the London bus service under the Tories at the time, greatly appreciate.

Yet while I do not hate Livingstone, I do consider him unelectable in principle. His endorsement of various fascist and extremist political elements, from Yusuf al-Qaradawi to George Galloway, Kate Hudson and the so-called Stop the War Coalition, and his collaboration with unsavoury anti-Western leaders abroad such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, make him unacceptable. How can we have a mayor for our capital city who has a working relationship with the enemies of our country and of Western civilisation ? Lest anyone think I’m simply being sectarian here: we’re talking about people who support the fascists in Iraq who are not only murdering innocent civilians, but killing our soldiers as well. What a disgrace. I’d rather have Boris Johnson as Prime Minister than Livingstone.

Additional minuses for Livingstone are his philistine disregard for London’s heritage and opposition to Heathrow expansion – things that I, as a born and bred Londoner and a frequent flyer (though probably not as frequent a flyer as Ken himself) deeply resent.

Having said all that, Livingstone has one great advantage over Johnson: he is a passing phenomenon. He will serve one more term and can then make way for a more palatable Labour candidate. By contrast, a win for Johnson could be the thin end of the wedge, leading to a Tory-controlled London for an unknowable length of time, and perhaps paving the way for a Tory victory at the next general election.

So I’ll cast my protest vote for Brian Paddick, with a transfer to Livingstone. I should add that I dislike the Liberal Democrats as an essentially irrelevant party and the ignominious recipient of the anti-Blair Guardianista protest vote at the last general election. But Paddick seems a decent enough chap.

I’m sorry if none of this sounds very idealistic, but such is the choice that we in London face tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll be given a better choice next time around.

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Wednesday, 30 April 2008 Posted by | London, Red-Brown Alliance, The Left, Transport | Leave a comment

Madeleine Bunting helps to keep the Third World poor

Madeleine Bunting is legendary as the human incarnation of liberal English middle-class guilt. Well, it appears that this time she really has something to feel guilty about. In her most recent piece of hand-wringing, she takes herself to task for her failure to be sufficiently environmentally friendly: ‘Is it enough to have halved family meat consumption, have foregone flights for several sun-starved years and arranged a life in which habits of cycling to work and walking to school are routine ? No, it’s just scratching at the surface.’ Maddy of the Sorrows has for some time now been suggesting the foregoing of foreign holidays, or at least driving instead of flying abroad, as a way of reducing carbon emissions. But what does her suggestion really mean ?

Senior environmentalist Lisa Mastny of the WorldWatch Institute in Washington wrote back in 2001: ‘For the world’s 49 so-called least developed countries, most of which are in Africa or Asia, tourism is one of the few ways to actually participate in the global economy. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that tourism is now the second largest source of foreign exchange after oil in these countries, accounting for 16 per cent of total non-oil receipts in 1998. Their aggregate tourism revenue more than doubled between 1992 and 1998, to $2.2 billion, with five countries – Cambodia, Maldives, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda – attracting more than half of this 1998 total. The World Trade Organisation reports that tourism is the only economic sector where developing countries consistently run a trade surplus. And its importance in trade is growing.’

As an environmentalist, Mastny argues that the point is not to end tourism, but to make it more environmentally sustainable: ‘The most sustainable option of all would be to stay at home. But in a world where travel is an increasingly important vehicle of cultural exchange, as well as a crucial driver of the world economy, this is an impractical and unrealistic solution.’ Mastny does not appear to have taken account of Bunting’s personal crusade to deprive the world’s poorest countries of their second-largest source of foreign exchange. Bunting’s suggestion that people only travel when completely necessary, and take the car or train rather than the plane, would realistically mean that almost nobody in Britain would go on holiday much beyond France – who is going to travel overland to Tanzania or Cambodia ?

There was a time when progressively minded people were in favour of a cheap and efficient transport system and affordable foreign holidays for working-class people. This is apparently no longer the case. London’s left-wing mayor, Ken Livingstone, has apparently ‘made it clear that I oppose all airport expansion in London and the South East, not just at Heathrow’. This from a mayor who spends much of his time travelling to exciting places all over the world.

There is a campaign to halt the building of a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow Airport. If it succeeds, it will prolongue the suffering of millions of people, resulting from the fact that Europe’s busiest airport is also just about Europe’s most overcrowded; in fact, flying from Heathrow in summer is an absolute nightmare. If the campaign succeeds, London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre will suffer. But this will not prevent increasing millions of British people from flying away on holiday each year, or millions of foreigners from flying to Britain. It will just make it more difficult and unpleasant for them.

There are other, more effective ways of helping the environment than avoiding flying abroad on holiday. One can, for example, avoid having children. Or one can simply kill oneself – probably the most environmentally friendly option of all. Anyone who opts to take any such step is free to bask in the warm glow of self-righteousness and enjoy the sensation of moral superiority vis-a-vis lesser beings. But real angels are polite enough to keep these feelings to themselves.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007 Posted by | Environment, Heathrow, Political correctness, Transport | , , | Leave a comment