Monday, 18 August 2008

The more you ignore me, the closer I get (5)

Oops, should also have included a link to this article: "Tory leader David Cameron's publicity stunt flight to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to assure the local regime of his support against the Russians is outrageous cheek. The expression 'punching above his weight' doesn't cover it." And yup, that's the Daily Mail.

To save you the bother of checking out the rest of the Mail site, I can report that Fern Britton is showing off her new figure in a bikini, a python has crawled up a weatherman's shorts on live TV and Sacha Baron Cohen's partner did a cartwheel on the beach.

But for those looking for something more substantial, less 'silly season': here's Dave again, revealing how a dreadfully common white van man tried to push him off his bike once, and criticising:

"the target culture that has been imposed on police by Labour, which means that they tend to go after easy cases rather than difficult cases, and that means obviously demonising the middle classes to a certain extent and targeting people who are fundamentally law-abiding".

So... someone interpret that for me please. Is he saying that the "real" crimes are committed by working-class oiks?


Chris Hutt said...

For those of us who've experienced similar unprovoked attacks from drivers, namely almost all regular cyclists, it's actually very encouraging to know that we might soon have a Prime Minister who actually knows what it's like out here in the real world.

Facile gestures like "Cycling City" are no substitute for having leading politicians who have direct and regular experience of the realities of cycling around our cities. Didn't you say you were taking up cycling, Kerry?

Kerry said...

There's more to living in the real world than cycling between Notting Hall and parliament.

And yes, I've been cycling over the summer; went to the event at Felix Rd playground by bike yesterday in fact. No attacks by white van men as yet, although crossing the junction from lower to upper Stapleton Road is pretty scary.

I'm sorry you think that putting £22m into cycling in Bristol is 'a facile gesture'. I'd have thought that cycling to work while your car follows behind carrying your shoes was a pretty 'facile gesture' - but I guess Cameron in his cycling shorts makes a better photo op than someone actually putting their money where their mouth is.

Chris Hutt said...

You're obviously worried about Cameron, judging by the way you take every opportunity to sneer at him.

He appears to be genuinely trying to keep in touch with everyday reality by, for one thing, cycling in London, which is no picnic, even between Notting Hill and Westminster. That's a lot more than any recent Labour leader has managed.

As for Cycling City, you must know as well as anyone that the £11 million being put in by the Government is peanuts in terms of national transport infrastructure investment.

The Council will have no trouble wasting it on jobs for the boys and symbolic gestures while again failing to tackle the real problem of harassment and intimidation from motorists. At least Cameron understands that from personal experience.

Northern Lights said...

So David Cameron knows what it's like 'out here in the real world' does he?

Would that be the real world of having a driver to chauffeur one's shoes and briefcase to work?

If ever there was a man who knows nothing about the 'real world' it is David Cameron.

Chris Hutt said...

Northern Lights, I think you'll find that the chauffeur driven shoes one has already been done by Kerry (about 50 times probably but I've lost count).

You'll have to come up with something a bit more substantial and up to date if you want to discredit Cameron. It that really so difficult?

The point is that all political leaders get out of touch with the people sooner or later and chauffeur driven limos don't help, but at least Cameron is making some sort of effort.

Kerry said...

Notting Hill to Parliament... let's see: that takes you through Kensington Park, Hyde Park, St James' Park - and hey presto, you're at your destination. Not that different to 'a picnic' really. I can't see that teaches Cameron any more about "the real world" than his hunting and shooting weekends on country estates.

As for comparing Cameron to "any recent Labour leader" - it's ridiculous to suggest that Prime Ministers should be cycling to work; apart from the security risk, they live above the shop! But plenty of Labour MPs do cycle - the All-Party Cycling Group is headed up by a Labour MP, Emily Thornberry, who cycles in from Islington every day.

Cameron cycles to keep his weight down and - since he became leader - because it provides convenient photo ops. Not to mention stories of dubious credibility about having his bike stolen from outside Tesco's (which perhaps has taught him not to chain his bike to a two foot high bollard?) and allegedly being pushed off his bike by an angry driver. (There is a grid somewhere in Tory Central Office with that story on it - today's line: Dave understands what it's like to be a victim of crime, there was a mugging in his area not so long ago and he was burgled once). No suggestion as to what he intends to do about it, just 'I'm just like you, I feel your pain'. If that's what counts as solid credentials to run the country, Heaven help us.

You say "You'll have to come up with something a bit more substantial and up to date if you want to discredit Cameron. Is that really so difficult?" No it's not. Look at what he's trying to say about crime in the 'white van man' piece - he's clueless. Look at his ridiculous efforts to present himself as an international statesman over Georgia. And have you ever heard him on the economy?

Last point - the Government recently announced £100m for cycling schemes, including the £11million - which is going to be match-funded - for Bristol. And yet you cycnically dismiss this out of hand. If you want to see the money well spent, why not come up with some suggestions?

You imply that Cameron has, unlike Labour, some ideas for 'tackling the real problem of harassment and intimidation from motorists' - which are what exactly? Complaining about them in a press release? That's really going to sort white van man out.

Northern Lights said...

Ok Chris, how about this?

I could rehearse the old arguments about public school privilege and inherited wealth which, for a start, would suggest that he isn’t quite a 'man of the people', but instead let’s look at his policies.

Our Dave campaigned against the minimum wage for the low paid, but promised to increase the threshold for inheritance tax to one million pounds. As I understand it, this affects about 5% of the (richest) people, while the minimum wage affects millions of low paid workers.

You might remember that this was just before before he refused to reintroduce the 10% tax band, despite his 'concerns' about the low paid. For someone who claims to care about 'hard working families' it's an inconsistent economic position at best.

What about his shadow cabinet, which is about the least diverse and inclusive group as it is possible to imagine.

Now let's look at the details from his register of members interests, where he states that trips on a helicopter and private plane 'facilitates his travel as leader of the opposition'...but gosh, what is one to do when one's push bike is stolen?

It should be obvious to even the most naive political observer that Cameron's 'man of the people' act is just that; an act. Our Dave will never be out of touch with normal people, because I don't think he was ever 'in touch' in the first place.

Kerry said...

And I'd just logged back on to suggest that Chris checks out Cameron's well-documented use of private planes...! (Try Googling - you'll be kept busy for quite a while.)

But seeing as I've been beaten to it, I'll just enquire whether you know where Dave is sunning himself at the moment? Yup, he's on a yacht in the Aegean, celebrating Viscountess Astor's birthday - aka the mother-in-law. Encouraging to know that we might soon have a Prime Minister who actually knows what it's like out [here] in the real world... right Chris?

thebristolblogger said...

"Look at his ridiculous efforts to present himself as an international statesman over Georgia."

What by saying Georgia should join NATO? The exact same policy agreed by David Miliband today and confirmed by him just now on Newsnight.

Miliband also praised Cameron for supporting government policy.

So that's ridiculous efforts all round then.

Kerry said...

No, by flying to Georgia expecting an audience, trying to get Obama on the phone, suggesting a ban on Russian shoppers.... but that's another post.

Kerry said...

P.S. Another post which is immediately below this one.

SteveL said...

I don't think David Cameron is representative of society, and don't think he tries either. However, that does not mean that it is fair to be dismissive of his "A van driver tried to run me over story". I had a landrover try and knock me off the road and it is utterly terrifying to have something right up behind you trying to get past. Cycling from Notting Hill to Westminster can still be pretty dodgy -you have the taxis and delivery vans to deal with inside the C-zone, and you need to be careful.

Kerry, feel free to criticise him on policy, but unless you and Gordon Brown start commuting by bike then please don't dismiss David Cameron's efforts. At least by cycling to work he's not being as hypocritical as a certain other party's kyoto-agreement-matters-but-we-need-a-third-runway-for-LHR stance. You know the one -your party's.

Chris Hutt said...

"it's ridiculous to suggest that Prime Ministers should be cycling to work." Are you sure you want to stick with that quote Kerry? It might be a red rag to a bull for a lot of cyclists.

I'm no Tory or apologist for Cameron and I dare say that most of what gets into the media is carefully managed (now where would they have got that idea from?), but if it's merely a cynical exercise to court popularity why on earth would he identify with cyclists who are still vilified and resented by many people?

Cameron's life and background may be untypical in many respects, but isn't that true of all political leaders? My point is that he's keeping up the cycling despite the many complications it presents, like being tailed by journalists hoping to record traffic violations. I'm sure I'm not the only cyclist who finds that encouraging.

As for the £11 million Cycling City funding, compare and contrast that with £11 billion (that's 1,000 times as much) to be spent improving the road network which will encourage and accommodate growth in motor traffic.

As for coming up with suggestions for improving things myself, I've spent a large chunk of my life doing just that, including incidentally the East Bristol section of the Railway Path and other popular facilities. And I continue to do so, but when your efforts are consistently ignored and ridiculed by the Council and any credit going is hoovered up elsewhere it isn't easy.

Finally, the publicity generated by Cameron's cycling, like the white-van-man attack, does help because it brings these issues to the attention of the public. Tens of thousands of cyclists have been attacked in similar circumstances before, but the police and media take little interest. But when it happens to someone like Cameron then it's news and Chief Constables and the like take note.

Kerry said...

Oh come on Chris - He lives above no. 11, he works at No. 10. Where would he actually cycle to? Out of one front door and in the other? On a more serious note, how would you ensure the security of a cycling PM? It's impossible.

Cameron could hardly have given up cycling once the press had taken an interest, could he? And he shouldn't be committing traffic violations anyway (speaking as someone who walks to work in London and regularly has to jump out of the way of cyclists). I'm all for making the roads safer for cyclists and ensuring motorists respect their right to be on the roads - but cyclists also have to respect the rights of pedestrians and yes, of motorists too.

All this simply proves the point I was making about Cameron - his 'human interest' stories grab the headlines, and ensure that there's no real scrutiny of what he is saying ... which in this case was that the police are targeting law-abiding middle class people to get their numbers up, and ignoring the real (working class) crime. Do you think that's a valid thing to be saying?

(And I've just noticed in my earlier post - it should of course be Notting Hill, not Notting Hall!)

Chris Hutt said...

A PM has plenty of opportunities to cycle, notably from Downing Street to Parliament. I take your point about security issues, but all cyclists face "security issues" yet we carry on because we're not prepared to give in to intimidation.

Freedoms have to be fought for and that includes the freedom to cycle.
I like to think that's part of the motivation for Cameron (and since he's more than likely to be PM in a couple of years don't similar security issues apply to him as an incumbent PM?).

Anyway, it's good of you to engage in a debate on this. We may not agree on everything but I admire you for having the courage to make yourself accessible via a blog. If only more politicos would.

Terry said...


You keep rattling on about Cameron. Now you keep telling me the smoking ban is popular with the public, well Cameron is very popular with the public in all polls. I would add your leader is the most unpopular since records began. So you bring in a smoking ban due to public demand, well public demand wants rid of Gordon Brown and Labour. Now do you respect the public on this?

Kerry said...

Terry, you can try to bring smoking up as often as you want - I'm not going to respond. (See rules).

Chris, it's a five minute walk from Downing Street to Parliament; cycling would just be a tokenistic gesture, it would take longer to put on the cycling gear and get the bike out than it would to walk. As for security - the PM has rooms inside the Palace of Westminster, which he uses before PMQs and other Commons' appearances. It's a 20 second walk from there to the Chamber, and the area is only accessible to people with House of Commons security passes. However - there are still at least two bodyguards positioned outside and they accompany him to the doors of the Chamber. That's the reality of it. It wouldn't be any different if anyone else was PM. Opposition politicians have never had that kind of security, they're not seen as a target - and you can hardly compare the kind of security issues a PM faces (assassination, kidnapping, terrorist attack) with those encountered by the average cyclist!

Also, Gordon probably can't cycle safely anyway, for the same reason he can't drive, i.e. his disability. So it's a bit unfair to make an issue of it (you wouldn't do it if it was Blunkett, would you?)

Chris Hutt said...

Kerry, I didn't specifically refer to Gordon but to "recent Labour leaders" which obviously includes Blair and could be taken to include other senior party figures. I had no idea Gordon had a "disability" (I'll have to look that up) so no slight was intended.

Despite what you say about the practicalities I still hope to live to see a PM who routinely cycles to and from appointments. It would signal the kind of change we need in attitudes to allow the potential of cycling to be fully exploited.