Monthly Archive for August, 2006

Delayed on the Tube? Get a refund

The Citzen’s Charter initiative was probably one of the best ideas pursued by John Major’s government in the 1990s. Success is debatable but the basic principles are still very relevant today – that public services should provide value for money and be accountable, for a recognised service level agreement, to their customers.

One of the legacies of the Citizen’s Charter project is the number of public bodies that still operate compensation policies under their “Customer Charters”. The one that I have most call upon using is that for London Underground.

London Underground (but curiously not the rest of Transport for London) provide a full single fare refund if your tube journey is delayed by 15 mins. This applies regardless of the ticket type (single / return / travelcard / Oyster, etc.) Of course, much of the time you would rather get to your destination on time. Nevertheless I think it is always important to press for the compensation that you are entitled too because these numbers add up and pressure manages to improve service quality. Also, sometimes (especially if you are a student) you might actually prefer a slightly delayed, but free, journey – particularly if you are used to allowing extra time to cope with the nuances of the Northern Line!

Perhaps understandably, the application form for Customer Charter refunds is a little difficult to find on TfL’s web site. Hence my reason for blogging about it as an excuse for posting the link.

Armitage – “Solution must include Syria and Iran”

In an interesting inteview with Al Jazeera (hello censors!), former White House neocon Richard Armitage criticises Bush’s foreign policy.

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Site recovered after censorship

Regular visitors (and feed subscribers) will have noticed that my site has been down for about two weeks. The downtime was caused by my host, of several years, deciding to terminate my account with immediate effect and no notification.

My hosting arrangement was an informal one with a non-commercial entity (in exchange for my helping with the server administration on a voluntary basis). So it’s really fair enough if they want to stop hosting me at any time. However, what I found disappointing, given the nature of the organisation, was their reasoning. Apparently they wanted my site removed because I was using it to “espouse anti-Israeli rhetoric (linking to Al Jazeera)” and this was causing offence to some of their members. I can only presume they were referring to my blog entry about going to the Stop the War Emergency Demo which included a link to this Al-Jazzera article documenting Lebanese civilian casualties.

I’m not sure when this organisation (which has a statutory responsibility for promoting, and defending, freedom of speech) began a policy of pro-Zionist censorship. Nevertheless if they carry on in this way they will merely create problems for themselves.

The Benign Iron Lady

Tony Blair is often compared to Lady Thatcher for similarities on various policy matters, including (topically) Atlanticism. However, John Kampferner, writing in the New Statesman ['Blood on his hands'], makes an interesting contrast of the death tolls resulting from their wars.

Here’s a rather blunt extract:

A record of conflict: the death toll from wars Britain has fought under three prime ministers:

Tony Blair
71,617 deaths
9 years in power

John Major
22,316 deaths
7 years in power

Margaret Thatcher
1,013 deaths
11 years in power

There’s a breakdown of the various wars to which these figures have been attributed in the article itself.

I’m not sure how accurate or representative these figures are. For instance, I don’t know if the figures for Iraqi causalities in the Gulf War are all of the Iraqi casualties or just those who are the direct result of British participation (though just you would determine such a proportion would make for an interesting essay).

The figures also do not include ‘proxy wars’ where we may have been funding/supporting one side or another, either openly or in a clandestine manner. I suspect more of that will have gone on during the Cold War era (even the Thatcher period) than today.

Nevertheless, it is still telling that whilst Lady Thatcher led Britain to wars that resulted barely 90 deaths per year, Tony Blair has managed almost 8000 per year. Blair’s lethality is a staggering 90 times greater than that of the Iron Lady – and unlike Blair she did, at least, make us feel safer!