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Transport Secretary Philip Hammond will be appearing on Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions’ next week. If you live in Surrey and want to put a petrolhead minister on the spot now could be your chance.
The event will be on 19th November at Wallington High School for Girls, Woodcote Road, Wallington, Surrey SM6 0PH.
Free tickets for Friday’s event are available from tel: 020 8254 9324, or [email protected]
Hammond is the transport secretary who, as part of his first public statement, said he had “ended the war on the motorist”. He also choked off the cash for Cycling England, replacing it with…nothing. He’s pouring billions of pounds into motorway widening and has an open cheque-book policy on electric car infrastructure, but this is where his interest in transport ends.
He’s happier spending time in other Government departments, advising them on where and how to cut, rather than be briefed on topics in his own department. He didn’t want the transport role, he wanted to be bean counter number two. And doesn’t it show? Time spent in departments other than his own means he hardly sees his own team: road safety minister Mike Penning has seen his boss so few times he now jokes about it in private.
And whenever Norman ‘once-a-lion-now-a-poodle’ Baker gets a face to face with Hammond it consists of a one way conversation, and is invariably about which part of the sustainable transport budget will be chopped next.
Transport ministers of all creeds have one big fear. If they start talking about walking or cycling - or anything that’s not deemed MSM-sexy such as aviation or electric sportscars or high speed rail – they worry the redtops will picture them as being in charge of the Ministry of Silly Walks. Monty Python has done more damage to our nation’s health than you might think.
So, it’s against this background that it might be a good idea to get in the audience for ‘Any Questions’. Hammond is incredibly weak on transport topics that don’t involve asphalt and Jaguars, and a few questions lobbed his way could expose this weakness.
Does he really think electric cars will cure congestion? How will 8000 electric cars (the estimate for numbers sold by 2013) curb either carbon or congestion? Why is the British Government giving rich car owners cash to buy even more cars: why do well-heeled folks need £5000 subsidies to buy electric cars? And how come this slush fund starts in January but the pitifully small Local Sustainable Transport Fund doesn’t start paying out until October? If electric cars can get a state handout, why not electric bikes? What is his definition of “war” (are speed cameras used in Iraq and Afganistan?) How can he justify abolishing Cycling England which costs £200,000 a year to run, which is about the cost of five metres of motorway? With UK car ownership now at 31 million and rising, at what level of ownership will gridlock kick in? If he doesn’t know, why not?
There are so many questions that can be asked of Hoverboard Hammond. I wish I lived in Surrey. If you do, get in that audience…