Monthly Archive for January, 2008

Does Paddick get it?

I’ve previously written about Brian Paddick’s bizarre haranguing of Ken Livingstone during an ITV debate for increasing the number of uniformed police officers on London’s streets. This doesn’t seem to be the only are where he just doesn’t seem to get it.

Last night Paddick got some publicity on BBC London News for signing some pledge to support taxi drivers. Apparently key demands included more favourable (to taxis) traffic light timings and a "consultation" on banning rickshaws. He got a soundbite in about how cabbies have worked hard to pass their the Knowledge and meet tough vehicle maintenance standards and should get something in return.

Surely cabbies do get something in return for the Knowledge and their other regulatory compliance? After all everyone knows that black cabs are much more expensive than mini cabs in London. They get a charge a regulated fare rate that is much higher than virtually all other mini cab firms (luxury limo hire excluded). Plus most cabbies are self employed not working for a company so they keep more of their fare as profit.

That’s all without considering that in the age of sat nav the benefit to the passenger of being driven around by someone who has passed the Knowledge is getting slimmer and slimmer. It’s increasingly an anachronism and, though I rarely take a taxi,  I’ve even seen the odd black cab  make use of GPS navigation.  Give sat nav technology a few more years to mature and I’d say there would be a compelling case to consign the Knowledge to the dustbin of history.

I fully understand that Paddick needs to chase after every vote he gets but he needs to recognise the big picture: Whilst black cabs are an important part of London’s transport infrastructure they are never going to be a solution to our congestion problems.

As for banning rickshaws… has he been smoking some of that stuff with which he made his name by being lenient on?

Road Rage — BBC ‘Docutainment’

This is quite entertaining: the BBC’s Road Rage documentary which was originally screened earlier this month. It does, however, make everyone in London look a little bonkers (or worse). My favourite clip is the bit where the lady from Hampstead is arguing with a parking attendant and tells him that if she gets too many parking tickets her husband might get upset and dock her clothes money!

Of course the programme does actually raise some serious issues regarding the state of transport (public and private) in Britain in general, and especially in London. Although there’s rightly much attention on the recent spate of gang killings in the city I still believe sorting out London’s transport mess should be the number one priority for the Mayoral candidates.

It all came sharply in focus for me yesterday morning. As I was cycling past the roundabout outside Waterloo station I saw a driver get out of his white van and engage in fist-i-cuffs with a cyclist. (Not sure who was at fault as I didn’t really notice them until they started fighting and I had a train to catch so didn’t stop.)

First Mayoral TV "debate"

ITV has a Thursday evening political discussion programme called London Talking. I’d actually never heard of it until yesterday when I read in the paper that Ken and Boris would be having a bit of spat at each other and decided to tune in for entertainment value. In the end it wasn’t actually that entertaining.

The show consisted of the Mayoral candidates from each of the three main parties taking part in a (recorded) debate. Each brought along about a dozen supporters to provide heckling and inane questions (there was no other studio audience). I recognised a couple of faces: all warped politicos . Interestingly, and in contrast to the other parties, the most prominently seated Boris supporters were black and asian: I wonder if this was a conscious effort to counter allegations of their man’s racism? The Tory supporters were the noisiest and ill-disciplined. The Labour supporters all looked quite smug and smarmy as if they had a God-given right to rule London. The Lib Dems just looked wet. Children’s TV presenter Konnie Haq was in the chair but no-one seemed to pay any attention to her.

Brian Paddick for the Lib Dems didn’t really say much of any inspirational value. He highlighted a couple of things where he disagreed with Ken’s policies but wasn’t able to give coherent thought-out alternatives.  My respect for him was also greatly reduced by his obsession with attacking Ken over the increase in police officers in London which Paddick seemed to think was a "waste of money".

Ken was somewhat dull was assured, coming across as a safe pair of hands who was quietly getting on with the job. He did seem bereft of fresh ideas and seemed particularly barren when asked what could be done about the spate of gang shootings in London. Nevertheless he certainly come across as the best out of the three.

Boris was full of his usual bluster but didn’t really seem to say anything other than he was going to try to come up with some policies before May.

Hardly an inspiring contest. Boris or Paddick (or even Ken) might yet actually be able to come up with some new and inspirational policies. Yet, I can’t help but think they are all leaving it a bit late. Looks like I’ll be voting for Ken unless a strong independent candidate emerges.

As for the show itself, I don’t know how representative this "special programme" was. Nevertheless it displayed all the kind of seriousness you would expect to command by a political programme on ITV fronted by a Blue Peter presenter. I shalln’t be watching again any time soon.

Turkey smoke ban to include sheesha

Ever since the smoking-in-enclosed-public-places ban came into effect across England & Wales I’ve bumped into people complaining that it is somehow discriminatory against Muslims and/or Asian/Middle-eastern people who smoke water pipe (a.k.a. shisha, hookah, nargile) as part of their culture and/or because they don’t drink alcohol. I’ve always found this argument somewhat ridiculous. If other forms of tobacco smoking are banned because of the harmful effects on health then it makes no sense to exempt shisha – particularly as the WHO claim shisha smoke is actually much more harmful than from cigarettes.

Now Turkey’s Islamist government has signed into law a wide-ranging smoking ban which will come into effect in 18 months time. And just like the ban in England & Wales it will affect sheesha. Source: Turkey to introduce smoking ban [RTÉ News]. Quite right too! This a sign of the times: smoking (of any sort) is become less and less socially acceptable as more is understood about the health risks, especially of secondary smoke. The Edgware Road will just have the adapt.