How to Stop the Protestors on the M25

This morning (20/09/2021) the M25 was again disrupted by eco fanatic protestors. The Home Secretary Priti Patel has ordered the police to get tougher but there is not much sign of that happening except that they do seem to be moving quickly to remove the demonstrators.

But they could do a lot more. The Daily Mail covered some of the possibilities in an article which you can read in the link below.

Daily Mail article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10004241/Son-reveals-mum-left-paralysed-getting-stuck-SIX-HOURS-M25-eco-mob.html

It suggests that “senior officers from Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent, Essex and the Met are considering charging the activists with more serious crimes to ensure they are deterred from further protests.  Conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, is thought to be one of the punishments considered”.

So far although the protestors have been removed, they have not been remanded in custody or even charged, i.e. they have not appeared in court. So they can effectively carry on regardless.

Their activity is a danger to life as was covered in another part of the Mail article where they reported on a person probably having a stroke being held in the jams for several hours. A stroke or similar medical incident needs medical attention in minutes not hours if long-term effects or death are to be avoided.

London Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has led the weak response to demonstrators in London and now it has spread wider. She should never have been appointed to the post after her involvement in the death of Jean Charles de Menezes – an innocent person shot by the police in 2005. Cressida Dick has recently been reappointed to her post thus extending her job for another two years.

The Home Secretary needs to consider some emergency legislation to stop these demonstrations, particularly the closures of the major road network such as all motorways. That has now become essential.

Roger Lawson

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Spend, Spend, Spend – Andy Byford’s Solution to TfL’s Financial Problems

An article in the Financial Times this week (17/9/2021) spelled out how the London Transport Commissioner is looking to solve the financial problems of Transport for London (TfL). Andy Byford who heads TfL called on the Government to provide £17 Billion of funding over the next decade.

TfL has certainly been badly affected by the pandemic with a big reduction in income as people have avoided travelling on the Underground and on buses. They have already had several temporary bail-outs to keep operations running although the Government imposed a number of conditions on their financial support. Usage of buses and the tube is increasing but it may be a long time, if never, before it returns to the same levels as seen before the pandemic as working from home (WFH) or hybrid office use has become adopted.

Mr Byford hopes to achieve financial stability by the financial quarter ending in March 2022. But that is a hope rather than a certainty. That will not include funding for replacing diesel buses by electric ones, the purchase of trains for underground lines nor any major new projects. It is also dependent on Crossrail opening on the long-delayed schedule and providing extra income. Mr Byford suggests that without extra “investment” (i.e. spending money he does not have), London’s transport network could enter a doomsday scenario of managed decline.

In other words, instead of using profits from existing operations to maintain and improve the network, he wants the Government to donate large sums of money out of our taxes to help him implement grandiose plans. This is surely no way to run a business – and make no mistake TfL is a business not just a public service.

Mr Byford seems to want to follow the typical socialist mantra of spend, spend, spend to solve his financial problems. Surely there is a better way.

FT Article:  https://www.ft.com/content/60e63984-dad6-4fed-ae9c-9c0888b74bb6

Roger Lawson

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M25 Blocked by Protestors – Cost: £1 million and More

Yesterday (13/9/2021) the M25 was blocked in several places by protestors claiming to be from a group called “Insulate Britain”. This is a new group wanting to persuade the Government to pay to insulate all Britain’s homes but they look very much like a front for Extinction Rebellion (XR) . For example they are not doing it to save residents money by cutting heating bills. Their web site says it is “part of a just transition to full decarbonisation of all parts of society and the economy”. In other words it’s an organisation that is focussed on CO2 emissions and alleged global warming. They presumably think it is more palatable to the general public, particularly those who live in social housing, to promote this rather than the normal XR agenda.

This demonstration was well organised in advance with media representatives in attendance. It closed several sections of the M25 for several hours before the police managed to remove them. Over 90 arrests were made but will they be charged and significant penalties imposed? It seems unlikely.

The M25 takes as many as 200,000 vehicles per day and Monday morning is one of the busiest times. So this hold up could have delayed 100,000 people as well as having a wider impact on the road network as drivers diverted. At a cost of £10 per hour that could mean a cost of over £1 million imposed on innocent people. Plus of course the cost of the police time involved in the events. Surely the culprits should be made to pay that and more? See Reference 2 below for Daily Mail coverage of the demonstrations.

Some people stuck in the traffic queues attempted to remove the protestors but were stopped by the police from interfering. Yet again the police are shown to be toothless in preventing obstruction of the highway which is against the law. See Reference 1 below for previous comments on why the police do nothing.

There is currently a Bill passing through Parliament (see Reference 3) which will make it easier for police to take action to prevent similar demonstration. It is surely long overdue.

But will it solve the problem? Not if the penalties for causing such disruption are so trivial. As financial penalties are no deterrent to the type of people involved in these events, a lengthy spell in prison (and not suspended sentences) are surely the only answer.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2018/12/19/demonstrations-blocking-roads-and-why-the-police-do-nothing/

Reference 2: Daily Mail article on the M25 demonstrations: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9984953/Motorists-clash-Insulate-Britain-climate-activists-blocking-M25.html

Reference 3: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-factsheets/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-2021-protest-powers-factsheet

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IPCC Report – The Implications for Drivers

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have published a report that predicts in stark terms both the historic and predicted changes to the earth’s climate from human activities. This is what they say in the accompanying press release: “Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, released today. Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years”.

However they also say that “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize”.

Although there are a few people who do not accept the scientific consensus in the IPCC report, Governments are likely to accept the findings and implement policies accordingly. This is already happening with the UK being at the forefront of measures to reduce carbon emissions which are seen as the main cause of global warming. With the UK Government’s “net zero by 2050” policy we are already seeing major impacts and the imposition of enormous costs on many aspects of our life. All of this is reinforced by media coverage of floods and wild fires that are typically blamed on climate change.

Many such reports are anecdotal in nature – they may simply be random events that occur for non-specific reasons, while reporting of such events is now more common in the modern connected world. But the IPCC report does say “It is virtually certain that hot extremes (including heatwaves) have become more frequent and more intense across most land regions since the 1950s, while cold extremes (including cold waves) have become less frequent and less severe, with high confidence that human-induced climate change is the main driver of these changes”. They also say that heavy precipitation events have increased since the 1950s over most land areas and it is likely that human-induced climate change is the cause. It has also contributed to increases in agricultural and ecological droughts.

The IPCC report is effectively a call for action and that will no doubt be reinforced by the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow in November where politicians will be promoting their virtuous visions no doubt. Whether they turn into actions remains to be seen – the past experience suggests they may only turn into token gestures. Economic decisions often thwart the best policies.

What happens if we don’t cut CO2, and methane and other carbon emissions? The IPCC report gives a number of scenarios based on scientific models of differing levels of emissions. Under the high and very high GHG emissions scenarios, global warming of 2°C (relative to 1850– 1900) would be exceeded during the 21st century. Global warming of 2°C would be extremely likely to be exceeded in the intermediate scenario and under the very low and low GHG emissions scenarios, global warming of 2°C is unlikely to be exceeded.

That might seem to be good news, but because of the time lag of the impact of changes in emissions, under the high emissions scenario their best estimate is of a temperature rise of 2.4 °C by 2041-2060 and 4.4 °C by 2081-2100. The latter would be disastrous for many parts of the world with increases in the intensity and frequency of hot extremes (heatwaves and heavy precipitation). The Arctic might become ice free in summer under all the scenarios and sea levels will rise “for centuries to millennia due to continuing deep ocean warming and ice sheet melt”. This could mean a rise of 2 to 3 metres in sea levels if warming is limited to 1.5 °C or 19 to 22 metres with 5 °C of warming!

With so many of the world’s cities on seaboards you can see that flood defences may be totally inadequate to cope with such rises and incapable of being built to resist them. Investments in City of London property would be one casualty. The current Thames flood barrier may be overwhelmed in future years even if GHG emissions stop growing. London is already very vulnerable to road flooding due to a Victoria drainage system while people numbers and buildings have grown apace.

The changes will likely affect the Northern Hemisphere more than the Southern, and there is some good news. For example, the reports says that the growing season has lengthened by two days per decade since the 1950s in the Northern Hemisphere. Farming might extend further north and unproductive land brought into use, but droughts might also remove a lot of marginal land from farming activity. These impacts will be greatly affected by the increase in GRH emissions.

Who can really affect the emissions? Only the big emitters such as the USA, China and Russia can have much impact. The UK produces less than 2% of world emissions.

Does the decarbonisation of transport, particularly in the UK, help at all? In reality not. For example, converting users to electric cars is likely to have minimal impact because the energy requirement and associated CO2 emissions to construct the batteries and make the steel for the car bodies offsets most of the likely benefit. The cost of building a network of charging points and enhancing the electric grid to cope will also be high. Investing in electric car makers or buying electric cars is not going to save the planet.

The big problem which the IPCC report does not cover is that GRH emissions are directly related to the size of the human population and their activities. Particularly what they consume, where they live and how they earn an income.  

Unless there is a concerted effort to halt the growth in population and to restrict urbanisation, I doubt that the growth in GRH emissions will be halted. More population means more farming to feed the people and that is a big contributor to methane emissions which is a significant GRH factor (this is highlighted in the latest IPCC report). Similarly construction of homes and offices is a big contributor. Nobody has yet figured out how to produce cement without generating carbon. Hence the suggestion that we should revert to constructing houses out of wood. Investing in growing trees for timber might help. but that is a 20+ years project and it can take 50 years to grow to harvestable size for timber, or longer in northern latitudes.

In conclusion, it’s worth reading the IPCC report (see link below) and pondering how you think the Government should deal with these issues. Please don’t fall into the trap of encouraging your local council to declare a “climate change emergency” as some have already done. Their initiatives such as closing roads to restrict traffic and persuading everyone to cycle will have no impact whatsoever. Gesture politics is what we do not need.

Even the UK Government alone will have no impact unless they can persuade other major countries to take suitable steps. But will they is the key question?  If they don’t all we can do is to try to mitigate the impacts by weather proofing our properties and the transport network while purchasing air conditioning to cope with the heatwaves.

I am sure some readers of this article will consider that I am being too defeatist and that we can all contribute to reducing the problem by eating less meat, looking at the food miles of what we consume, cutting out long holiday flights, changing your central heating boiler, reducing investments in oil/gas/coal producers and other peripheral affectations. But only Governments can really tackle the problem which we should all encourage them to do.

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report: https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/

Roger Lawson

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Gear Change , But Downwards

Cover Photo from Gear Change

The Department for Transport (DfT) have recently published a document entitled “Gear Change: One Year On”. It’s a celebration of the radical changes implemented by Government policy in the last year, with more active travel. It also contains a forward by the Prime Minister containing such phrases as: “Hundreds of new schemes have created safe space for people to cycle and walk, supported pubs and restaurants that might otherwise have closed, and allowed us to get the exercise we need. For decades we mourned that children no longer played in the street. Now once again, in some places, they do”.

That’s a very distorted view of what has happened during the pandemic. More people have walked and cycled partly because they have been working from home and hence have more time to do so, but also because they have been avoiding public transport.

The PM also says: “I know many people think that cycling and walking schemes simply increase car traffic on other roads. But there is now increasing evidence that they do not. We sometimes think of traffic as like water: if you block a stream in one place, it will find the next easiest way. Of course some journeys by car are essential, but traffic is not a force of nature. It is a product of people’s choices. If you make it easier and safer to walk and cycle, more people choose to walk and cycle instead of driving, and the traffic falls overall”. The latter comments may be true but there is certainly evidence that closing roads which is a typical element of LTNs does increase traffic on other roads.

The Gear Change document is a panegyric to the wonders of walking and cycling, but it totally ignores the needs of major segments of the population such as the elderly or infirm, or those who rely on vehicles to transport goods, tools or multiple passengers. It also contains some very misleading data on such issues as the take-up of cycling. It also suggests there is widespread public support for LTNs when independent surveys suggest the majority are against them. It depends on who you ask, the questions posed and who runs the survey.

Gear Change promotes a negative, downward move to local transport that will be opposed by many. It’s basically a propaganda piece exhorting us to change our way of life rather than the Government tackling the underlying causes of traffic congestion.

A good example of the kind of opposition to LTNs is the formation of a new group in Dulwich called “Age Speaks”. They say “We are a group of older people within One Dulwich who have banded together to amplify our voice.  As individuals we are being ignored by Southwark Council and our views and needs are being drowned out by the lobby groups the Council is listening to.  Together our voices will be louder and so we are uniting to make sure that older people are heard.

We want to make sure that the Council understands the difficulties the experimental road schemes cause us and how the Council could change things to make sure that we are treated equally.  Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and the Council has a duty to protect older people from unfair disadvantage.  This is particularly important now, as the Council will be making a decision on the road schemes in October, and so far has paid very little attention to the needs of older people”. They are particularly critical of an Equality Impact Assessment report from Southwark Council which is a typical example of such recent publications which tend to simply ignore many of the problems faced by the elderly.

Those who write such documents tend to be young and fit and simply have no understanding of how the elderly are impacted by attacks on the use of vehicles.

Gear Change report: https://tinyurl.com/yhc2fxkf

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Good News – Transport Action Network Lose Legal Case

Anti-roads campaign group Transport Action Network have lost a legal challenge to halt the Government’s £27.4bn Road Investment Strategy for the next 5 years. The group argued in a judicial review application that the plans were inconsistent with the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, the net zero target for the UK in 2050 and the Climate Change Act 2008.

Mr Justice Holgate said: “It is well-established that where a decision-maker decides to take a consideration into account it is generally for him to decide how far to go into the matter, or the manner and intensity of any inquiry into it, which judgment may only be challenged on the grounds of irrationality.

Accordingly, the success of this challenge depends upon whether the claimant is able to show that the decision was vitiated by irrationality.”

The judge said the real issue raised by this challenge was whether the Secretary of State failed to take into account implications for the net zero target and carbon budgets leading towards that target. He also said: “I see no reason to question the judgment reached by the DfT that the various measures of carbon emissions from the roads programme were legally insignificant, or de minimis, when related to appropriate comparators for assessing the effect on climate change objectives”.

Let us hope that this is the first of many victories in the courts against those who oppose the use of road vehicles and sensible provision of capacity to meet demand.

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The Cause of London’s Problems

We all know that London has major problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and housing shortages. These are all symptoms of a population that has been growing rapidly and is now way too large for the supporting infrastructure.

One of the causes of the rapid increase in the population is immigration into London from Europe. The Daily Telegraph have published an article that spells out the figures after an analysis of applications under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) that allows EU citizens permanent residence in the country. The figures they report are not just unexpectedly high, they are truly astonishing.

The article (see reference below), reports that 35% of the population of the London Boroughs of Newham and Brent are EUSS applicants. Some 1.8 million people have applied in London, meaning 1 in 5 Londoners are EU citizens. But other UK towns such as Northampton, Boston and Corby now have major proportions of EU migrants as residents.

As the article says, these numbers are startling and are much higher than previous Government estimates of EU migration. This has meant that estimates of requirements for school places and healthcare provision have been wildly wrong.

But the worse impact of this unplanned migration has been on housing and transport provision, particularly in London. This problem has been ignored by politicians in London for far too long. They have ignored the cause of the problems that have been created because they don’t wish to be seen as critical of the social problems that such immigration has caused.

Further EU migration might be deterred in future but we will have to live with the problem that has been caused. Massive investment will be required to cope with this influx.

Telegraph article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/06/25/eu-citizens-make-third-population-british-towns/

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London Transport Commissioner and Mayor’s Special Pleading

The Evening Standard has published an article by London’s Transport Commissioner, Andy Byford (see Reference 1). In it he welcomes the £1 billion in Government funding to keep Transport for London running for another few months.

But like Sadiq Khan’s press release over the deal (see Reference 2), it complains about the lack of a “long-term settlement”. The Mayor even called it “yet another sticking plaster”. They do not seem to understand that the basic problem is that they are looking for taxpayers (i.e. you and me as represented by the Government) to fund an uneconomic business called Transport for London.

Andy Byford does spell out where some of the money will go which includes this: “And it means we can continue with innovative and creative schemes to decarbonise transport by 2030 and to clean-up London’s air through the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, further electrifying the bus fleet, promoting active travel — including more Santander cycles — and improving road safety”. In other words, they are spending taxpayers’ money to expand the ULEZ (a very ineffective scheme on a cost/benefit analysis) and provide more cycles. Clearly the approach seems to be to spend their way out of trouble in the socialist paradise of London.  

The Mayor says that TfL only needs emergency funding from the Government because the Covid epidemic cut fare income by 90%. That might have been true in the short term and over a few weeks but the details do not seem to have been disclosed. Usage of public transport is fast recovering so this may be only a temporary problem and the financial problems of TfL are a long-standing failure to run a prudent budget that takes into account not just operating costs but capital expenditure and financing costs in addition.

Regrettably the Mayor is acting like the animal that bites the hand that feeds it with his attacks on the Government.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: Evening Standard article: https://tinyurl.com/2fc4vtut

Reference 2: Mayor of London Press Release: https://tinyurl.com/82uwfr38

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Telegraph Summarises Surveys Against LTNs, and John Redwood’s Blog Article

The Daily Telegraph has published an analysis of the 10 consultations on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) that local councils have reported to date. Three quarters of the people consulted over LTNs and cycle lanes opposed them.

The councils reporting their survey results include Harrow (82% opposed) and Windsor + Maidenhead (89% opposed). One exception was Bromley though with 64% supporting but their schemes are very limited in scope.

The newspaper also reported that one in three councils have axed, modified or reduced their active travel schemes. They also quote Tony Devenish, Conservative London Assembly Members as saying: “My Government is at fault to some extent, because they gave councils the power not to publicly consult for up to 18 months. You can’t just do these things to people. There has been absolute outcry from the Great British public – and that’s why so many councils have had to U-turn”.

But some Councils such as Lewisham have avoided doing public consultations despite promising to do them, or they keep moving the goalposts by changing the nature of the road closures (for example by changing them to “School Streets” or by reissuing Traffic Orders to avoid legal challenges).

Comment: Such public surveys show that the general public (even those who don’t own a car but rely on public transport such as buses), are opposed to the obstruction of our roads. Roads are essential for the movement of people and goods.

In Praise of the Car

John Redwood, M.P., has spelled out the advantages of cars in a good article on his blog (see Reference 2 below). He says: “Acquiring your first vehicle is a major advance in your personal freedom. Yet today government, Councils and better off greens from the security of their homes in major cities lecture the rest of us on the wickedness of the car. The better off Green city dweller can rely more on the tube or mass transit and has the money for taxis when needed. The aim is to get people out of car ownership or to reduce their use of the car, and in the meantime to cow people into keeping quiet about their reliance on this flexible and most popular form of transport”.

He explains at length why cars are more practical and economic for most of the journeys which he takes. A number of good comments have been added. I hope Grant Shapps reads the article.

Reference 1: Telegraph Article: https://tinyurl.com/2d44vbcn

Reference 2: Redwood Article: https://tinyurl.com/cchhcurc

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Comments on Election Results

So we have Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London for another few years. That’s a most disappointing outcome for anyone who understands how his transport policies have damaged the capital. His main contender, Shaun Bailey, did better than expected and did manage to achieve 35% of the votes on the first round versus Khan’s 40%. But on the second round it was 55% for Khan to 44% for Bailey.

The multiplicity of candidates and parties certainly helped Sadiq Khan to get re-elected, although his majority was reduced from the 2016 election. On the first round, all the votes for other than the two leading candidates totalled 625,000 whereas Khan got only 1,014,000 (that’s only 120,000 more than Bailey). The reallocation of votes in the second round were more in favour of Khan and hence the outcome.

The turn-out was low at only 41%.

The Conservatives did well at the national level, with a good win in Hartlepool, but that was not significantly translated into improvements in London. The Government’s handling of the pandemic crisis seems to have been appreciated with Boris Johnson’s handling of the Brexit negotiations being also supported.

But London was different. Why is that? The Conservatives certainly lost popularity in London over the Brexit issue with a large number of EU nationals now in London, who could vote unlike in the Parliamentary elections. Was Shaun Bailey a good candidate and did he put forward attractive policies? I am not sure he had the impact needed to overcome an incumbent Mayor although he was better than Zac Goldsmith who was the last Conservative contender. London has become a very polarised city in socio-economic terms with large numbers of immigrants many of whom rely to some extent on social security handouts or are in low-paid jobs. There has also been a high level of unemployment in recent months because of the epidemic which might have been a major concern and housing continues to be a problem for many (Sadiq Khan’s promotion of rent controls may have been politically appealing if not very practical and with long term negative consequences if implemented).

Political organisation and the use of social media also seemed to be stronger in the Labour Party with Sadiq Khan using his position as Mayor to promote himself in the media.

How did the parties fare in the few local Council bye-elections in London (the main ones are not until next year)? It’s interesting to look at the four bye-elections in Lewisham where concerns about the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) might have had an impact. In Bellingham, Catford South, New Cross and Sydenham the percentage support for the incumbent Labour Party all fell – from 66% in 2018 in Bellingham to 55% this year for example. But that was not enough to change the dominance of Labour – we still have one party in control.

It was not clear that local issues were a major concern or that the electorate were influenced by them. But the inability to do much local campaigning may have had an impact and more concern about other matters such as crime and housing than local transport, traffic congestion and air pollution may have had an impact. The general apathy about local politics also hindered a rational choice – for example turnout of voters in Bellingham was only 36%!

Even the confusing voting arrangements might also have had an impact with three different votes – for the Mayor, for London Assembly Members and for local Councillors not helping. The encouragement of postal voting, particularly by Sadiq Khan, might also have influenced the vote as it is easier to commit vote fraud that way, i.e. submit a vote on behalf of someone else or “coach” people how to complete the forms.  

In conclusion, and as someone who has been voting for the last 50 years, it’s worth saying that the quality of candidates and their policies seems to be dropping. Who would ever have guessed that unimpressive individuals such as Sadiq Khan or Nicola Sturgeon could ever become leaders in London or Scotland? They have both pursued very divisive politics in the apparent desire to stay in power rather than advocate what is good for the people and country as a whole.

Perhaps the problem is that few people wish to get involved in politics nowadays and those with talent avoid it. There is just too much back-biting and personal abuse in politics.

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