Belatedly, I have noticed that even the Evening Standard is getting fed up with government by chaos.
Like the NHS, the country’s welfare system is operating with absolutely no slack — we are keeping a large number of people on incomes so low they can barely survive from day to day. One of the many problems with this is that whenever there is a shock to the system — a pandemic, a rise in energy bills, inflation — people simply cannot pay their bills and you get a crisis.
Quite – and a remarkable from this newspaper, which I think is still edited by David Cameron’s sister in law…
Londoners, meanwhile, are in the epicentre of two additional crises. This week we received news of the largest annual rise in bus and Tube fares in a decade — a result, as an Evening Standard editorial comment put it, of Transport for London “living hand to mouth”. As the Standard has long argued, rather than being allowed to lurch from meltdown to meltdown, TfL needs a proper settlement. Patching it up, or even managing its decline, is expensive….
To draw attention to the public transport crisis in London, while London has had two cash injections lasting simply a fortnight each as BBC London’s transport correspondent has reported, how on earth can you run the vast organisation that is Transport for London on a fortnightly basis – it is madness. Purposeless chaos….
It stems from government seeing itself as a reluctantly benificent capitalist who doesn’t have shares in TfL and certainly doesn’t have shares in society. That is a problem that manifests itself outside London as well, where local bus companies – most of them are of course national operations, and keen to preserve ‘shareholder value’ – are decidedly worried because they have no assurances on continuing support even while passenger numbers are down 20% or so on pre-pandemic levels and service reductions will obviously put off many passengers. There is currently no government help beyond the beginning of April. No commercial company can realistically exist on this basis. Although I’m no fan of the private bus companies, this is a simple expression of f*** business. No wonder Labour has suggested that it is they who are the party of business.
Anecdotally my local bus route has declined from a pre-pandemic frequency of every 10-12 minutes to every half hour. That is no longer a turn up and go frequency.and will not improve patronage – the local management say that further frequency reductions are likely. The everlasting spiral of decline that has been characteristic of the overwhelming majority of private bus companies will progress further downwards. This, as this chaotic government may not have noted, is the wrong direction for ‘levelling up’, of which better bus provision was thought to be a significant part.
If we are to get people out of cars government has to be resolute and put money into public transport. And stop its commercial basis – it is a societal good and not simply just a potentially profitable enterprise for the benefit of shareholders.
We really need to have a government that needs to consider itself at a minimum, as a shareholder in society which is required to act in the best interests of that society – and not one that drifts and stutters when its own ideology bumps up against reality.
And government failure to admit that it creates money costlessly in order to get things done is, of course, integral to this chaos.