Monday, January 17, 2005

More Class War than 4x4

Yesterdays Times reported how UK activists have been stepping up their protests against 4x4s (or SUVs as they are better known in the US). Although their tactics have so far been limited to cheap publicity stunts such as sticking fake parking tickets on windscreens, it is only a matter of time till the protests become violent. The activists believe that driving an SUV should attract the same social stigma as wearing a fur coat.

Elected officials have now have backed the cause. "Red" Ken Livingstone (who describes their owners as "idiots") has threatened to raise the congestion charge for them, and the Liberal Democrats want to tax them out of existence. Like fox hunting, this has very little to do with the planet and everything to do with class war. Old cars pollute and consume more petrol (my Proton 1.6 only does about 23mpg around town), people movers (or MPVs as they are known in the US) and luxury cars often take up more road space, and to cap it all SUVs are often safer.

Take Honda for example, the European New Car Assessment Programme rates its CR-V as among the safest 10% of vehicles in pedestrian crash tests, according to its independent safety standards. And lets face it, you're more likely to walk away from an accident in an SUV than if you are driving one of those matchbox sized cars the protestors would like you to drive. Being 6 foot 3, I can't fit in them anyway.

Protestors hate SUVs because of what they represent, a status symbol. They are not only a symbol of conspicuous wealth, but their owners sit well above the rest of us and we feel small (or we feel like buying an SUV!). When the UK protestors eventually adopt violent tactics, which they will, Ken Livingstone, the Lib Dems and all the others who have egged them on will be responsible. They have given legitamacy to the notion that SUV owners are criminals, and having failed to reverse what is a growing trend, will leave the protestors with no option but to take direct action.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Livingstone loses his marbles

Our beloved Mayor Ken Livingstone has always been a little out of touch with reality, but his latest outburst plumbs new depths. As the scandal over his invitation to Sheikh Qaradawi continues, Ken is clearly getting fed up with the whole affair and has accused his critics of being under the influence of a "Zionist front organisation".

Ken Livingstone originally invited the cleric (who is banned from entering the United States because of his support for terrorism) to London last Summer. For anyone who professes to believe that Qaradawi is a "moderate", here is the full transcript of of an interview with him.

Unfortnately of Ken, it wasn't just terrorism that the cleric was accused of supporting but also wife beating and the killing of homosexuals. The Mayor, for long a supporter of gay rights (in the early 80s he used to wear a badge on his lapel: "gay, 16 okay") has found this criticism too much to take and has had to concoct a conspiracy theory to undermine his critics.

In a city as multicultural as London, do we really want a Mayor who is so desperate to woo one minority, he is willing to discriminate against all the others? How would we feel if we had a Mayor who made the buses run on time but invited Jean Marie Le Pen to London as guest of honour, would we still support him? I think not.

It's about time we woke up and realised that some leopards never change their spots. Ken Livingstone may no longer be the unreconstructed marxist he once was, but his extremist views have never waned. He defends his support many years back for IRA terrorism as "being ahead of his time", continues to be an anti-zionist, and and was famously quoted as saying: "I hate cars. If I ever get any powers again I’d ban the lot."

If Ken wants to mend fences with London's minorities, maybe he should invite Sheikh Qaradawi officially open London's next Gay Pride march!