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Cycling charity accuses Conservatives of "ill-fated attempt to win" votes with pro-motoring policies "undermining" active travel success

Cycling UK reacted to transport secretary Mark Harper's party conference speech by calling on the government to create a plan which includes all modes of transport, describing the proposal as "like trying to complete a jigsaw with half the pieces missing"...

Cycling UK has responded to the speech made by Transport Secretary Mark Harper this morning at the Conservative Party's conference in Manchester, accusing the government of being "intent on undermining" some of the "most successful transport policies of recent years" in an "ill-fated attempt to win support" ahead of the next general election.

Harper followed up on Rishi Sunak's comments from Friday about halting the so-called "war on motorists" with a promise that the Conservative Party is "proudly pro-car" and a pledge to introduce a number of pro-motorist policies.

> Rishi Sunak's 'Plan for Motorists' will "rob people of choice" and force them to drive, say cycling and walking campaigners

The head of the Department for Transport said he would review guidance on 20mph speed limits in England and opposes their blanket use, would continue the review into low-traffic neighbourhoods, and aims "to stop councils implementing 15-minute cities".

One eyebrow-raising quote came in the form of claiming "sinister" 15-minute city misuse could see "local councils deciding how often you can go to the shops", a claim former BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis said amounted to "conspiracy".

"It is sinister. It's also not remotely true," she wrote on Twitter. "Would love to hear from any local council that is now 'deciding how often you can go to the shops' in case we have this wrong? We are now in a brand new world where policies that were never going to happen are being 'cancelled', or where we are being saved from 'sinister' practices that don't actually exist. That's called conspiracy."

 "Like trying to complete a jigsaw with half the pieces missing"

Reacting to the speech Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK's chief executive, called on the government to produce a plan that considers all modes of transport, not just for those who drive cars, and suggested the government "seems intent on undermining" some of the "most successful transport policies" of recent years.

She said: "When Beeching took an axe to local railways in the 1960s, we were robbed of the freedom to choose how we travel. The government's reported 'plan for the motorist' feels like history repeating itself.

"We need a holistic plan for how people can travel — not a plan that zooms in on one particular mode of transport. A plan that gives us the freedom to choose how we travel, maximising our ability to opt for healthy, cheap and convenient options.

"Better public transport, and safer ways for people to cycle and walk are entirely compatible with driving. Focusing on one way of travelling is like trying to complete a jigsaw with half the pieces missing.

"No.10 seems intent on undermining some of the government's most successful transport policies of recent years. Ministers should be proud of their achievements on walking and cycling rather than ditching them in an ill-fated attempt to win support in advance of the general election."

The Department for Transport said its plan will "support drivers and put the brakes on anti-car measures", and includes measures involving 20mph speed limits, low-traffic neighbourhoods, 15-minute cities, bus lanes and parking, Harper's speech also touching on more vague promises about fines, potholes and how resignalling traffic lights can reduce traffic jams.

"For most people, the most important mode of transport remains the car, the van, the lorry, the motorbike," he told his party's conference. "But from listening to certain corners of the metropolitan bubble, you would think that owning a car was immoral, a dirty habit, an optional extra in people's lives.

"Politicians like Sir Keir Starmer, Sadiq Khan, and Mark Drakeford are only interested in the short term, taking the easy way out, and making decisions that hammer motorists to seek praise from social media and London newspapers."

> Tory MP attacks 15-minute city concept with known conspiracy theory

Harper's comments came a few days after the prime minister initially mentioned their proposal, before a weekend when active travel commissioner Chris Boardman had urged Sunak to "stick with" active travel policies.

Boardman argued that making it easier for people to drive would only encourage more people to do so, in turn putting more cars on the road, discouraging people who otherwise might cycle their journeys, and also subsequently making the roads "miserable" for drivers.

The head of Active Travel England also admitted Sunak's election-friendly language such as "slamming the brakes on the war on motorists" is "not the language I would choose".

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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8 comments

Avatar
mattw | 9 months ago
3 likes

I haven't listened to Harper's speech yet;  Sunak's contains deception, but not outright lies. 

For example Sunak:
"we now have record numbers of police officers and every crime should be investigated"
https://archive.ph/h1Pqx#selection-2163.380-2163.464

(Archive.ph seems immune to the Speckled Tater's paywall).

Claim addressed here for missing context:
https://fullfact.org/news/rishi-sunak-conference-speech-2023/

Also population is up from 62.2m to 67.7m since the last peak in police in 2009, whilst his comparison only works for numbers understood literally.

Harper, by contrast, *is* in the habit of blatant and deliberate lying.

I think Chris Boardman is protecting the core admin / policy organisational infra that has been created to have a foundation to start again at a higher level after the next Election.
 

Avatar
eburtthebike | 9 months ago
7 likes

We now have a government that is living in a fantasy: that they can get re-elected by pretending to support downtrodden drivers.  Or they think we are stupid enough to believe them when they talk about utterly ridiculous conspiracy theories that they don't actually believe themselves.

This is the politics of the Sun and the Mail, or perhaps Goebells and Stalin "A lie repeated enough times becomes the truth."  Make no mistake, the Sun, Mail, Telegraph etc will be repeating these lies ad infinitum up to the next election, and the BBC will be too, in the name of balance.

We not only need proportional representation to replace first past the post, which denies most people the government they want, we need some way of booting out a government when they are clearly deluded.

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
8 likes

If you need cheering up, just watch Hunt squirming when he's forced to admit he flew from London to Manchester - whilst standing in an old railway station, dodging questions about HS2...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001r3mq/breakfast-02102023

(1h 38min 15s in - only available until tomorrow morning)

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to HoarseMann | 9 months ago
8 likes

I quite liked the picture of Mark Harper, Transport Mininster, with his modest audience huddled in a corner so that the photo made it look like it was crowded.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
5 likes

I hate to say it, but I think you are wrong. These recent announcements by the government are exactly what WILL get them re-elected next year. 

The government is not stupid, it's policy makers clever; they know the only chance they have to stay in power is to move the discussion away from subjects such as inflation, national debt, climate change, public spending, growth, NHS etc. etc. i.e. the important subjects, basically all the areas where the tories are systematically failing. 

So, instead the conversation WILL be turned towards areas where soundbites can't be fact checked, and knuckle dusters can be suitably engaged.

You're right, the right wing media will absolutely support the government in achieving this.

Don't for a second be foolish enough to think that people will see through this plan, they won't. Terrifyingly, the opposition are doing nothing to stop it... they clearly have too much faith in society. I've already called it, but I'll say it again, we are heading for four more years of this shambolic leadership. 

Avatar
Cugel replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 9 months ago
0 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I hate to say it, but I think you are wrong. These recent announcements by the government are exactly what WILL get them re-elected next year. 

The government is not stupid, it's policy makers clever; they know the only chance they have to stay in power is to move the discussion away from subjects such as inflation, national debt, climate change, public spending, growth, NHS etc. etc. i.e. the important subjects, basically all the areas where the tories are systematically failing. 

So, instead the conversation WILL be turned towards areas where soundbites can't be fact checked, and knuckle dusters can be suitably engaged.

You're right, the right wing media will absolutely support the government in achieving this.

Don't for a second be foolish enough to think that people will see through this plan, they won't. Terrifyingly, the opposition are doing nothing to stop it... they clearly have too much faith in society. I've already called it, but I'll say it again, we are heading for four more years of this shambolic leadership. 

Agreed - that major constituent of The Establishment known as The Tory Party has long perfected socio-cultural mecahnisms for preserving their New Aristocracy model of retaining power and economic dominance. The nature of these creatures varies somewhat in their origin and particular ways & means of hanging on to power but fundamentally they'll invent, say and do anything to stay dominant.

It is amazing, isn't it, that millions of Blighters seem happy - eager - to ignore Toryspiv predations on their life and well-being in favour of accepting the Toryspiv nominations for various pariahs and scapegoats. Tory voters without the share portfolio or vast swathes of property (that might explain their vote for The Nasty Party of Exploiters and Rentiers) are also happy to vote Tory - for an even more degraded life - as long as they can watch some immigrants, welfare claimants, dark-skinned people or even cyclists villified, pursued and persecuted. 

They don't seem able, these Toryspivved dupes, to grasp that they too are in line for, eventually, being named as the latest pariahs or scapegoats, to distract from the dastardly deeds of their aristocratic masters and mistresses.

And now we hear the tramp-tramp-tramp of jackboots ...... . They were always coming to Blighty. Oswald just put his on a bit too soon.

Avatar
lonpfrb replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
4 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

We now have a government that is living in a fantasy: that they can get re-elected by pretending to support downtrodden drivers.

'war on motorists'

This is Trumpistan (accountability free) trope for the licenced motor vehicle users responsibility and obligations.

Just because bad people want to act without accountability does not mean we must accept that.

Clarification is to the motorists advantage for the avoidance of doubt and cost. It's not a war, just a shallow political attempt to garner votes from the gullible.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
3 likes

I don't think they can get re-elected but they think it's worth a go, and the Labour Party agree... or at least they feel that it's dangerous for them to stand too far away from the Tories.

I'm only surprised they're not all also saying they're the only people we can trust to protect us from some authoritarian government locking them all in their houses because of 5G.  ("Well, it's a concern we hear on the doorsteps...")

Meanwhile, we're supporting drivers :

14 miles of wild driving and smashing police cars, while disqualified - Jailed (!) 16 months, banned for 2 years 8 months

Smashed police cars with a tipper van, while disqualified - Jailed for 30 months, banned for 27 months

(no shortage of these.  Note - these are ones that crashed into the police - not just ordinary people...)

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