Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I've had a Basil Fawlty moment.

No, I don't mean the moment when he decides to give his car a 'damn good thrashing'. Think more the explosive result of his having been hen-pecked once too often by Cybil.

For me, a car user hen-pecked once too often by politicians, this is the result. Welcome to the Pro-Car Blog.

Criticism of the car, and the continued ratcheting up of financial punishments for those who use them, is reaching intolerable levels. Yet the arguments made to justify such increasingly unreasonable and extreme attacks on the motorist defy common sense.

Politicians seem to think drivers are all self-indulgently using their cars just for the fun of it or because we can afford to as a luxury, when we could be choosing to be more environmentally 'responsible'.

The reality is that, in most cases, there is simply no alternative to using a car to do all the tasks that must be done, and carry all their associated paraphanalia; take the kids to school, go to work, collect the kids again, take them to after school clubs or on visits to friends, do the family shop at the supermarket, and so on.

For the millions for whom this is a familiar daily routine, the idea that public transport is an option is quite simply ridiculous.

Similarly, commercial car users needing to visit a number of clients, or potential clients, in a day - numbers on which their income and family prosperity directly depend - simply cannot afford to spend long periods on stop-start public transport that still leaves them a long way from where they need to be.

Yet all are hit with ever higher costs for the essential of a car. Politicians expect those who have no choice to pay for the 'privilege' of using a car over and over again through an ever-increasing array of taxes, charges, fees, tolls and fines. Motorists already pay tens of billions of pounds more to the Treasury than are spent on maintaining road transport infrastructure.

Every new or increased tax is daubed in green and we're solemny lectured about the horrors of global warming, when the case that reducing car use can in any way alter climate change is flimsy at best and the fact that many drivers don't have any real alternative whether they wanted to reduce their car use or not is ignored.

In this dire situation, who is speaking out necessarily strongly for the car and its users? Several small, under-funded organisations are doing tremendous work with the limited resources they have available: the Association of British Drivers and SafeSpeed, to name but two. A number of motoring journalists like Mike Rutherford (Auto Express) and 'Honest John' (Daily Telegraph) also persistently work to right the information imbalance in their national media columns.

But where are the organisations with massive resources like the AA and RAC, whose primary interest used to be to defend the interests of the motorist? Have they today become far too absorbed in providing profitable commercial services and obsessed with being 'listened to', though largely ignored, in the corridors of power to really stand up for motorists? We'll look in more detail at those two organisations in later postings.

So in this context, this blog has two purposes. Primarily, to expose the flimsy arguments of those who see car users as a soft target, imagining the environment to be some kind of trump card able to justify any financial battering they may wish to administer, while no thought is given to the essential practical role cars fulfil in most peoples' lives or their importance to the economy and the prosperity they bring us all, not just car users.

We'll also be promoting, and spreading good news about, the British car industry. Contrary to the focus of the misery-mongers in the mainstream media (MSM), whose only interest is ever bad news, Britain has a vibrant, innovative and successful car industry. If the MSM aren't interested, this is where you can expect to find news of that ongoing success story.

So I hope you'll find the Pro-Car Blog an interesting and useful read.