C G Grey, when editor of The Aeroplane, observed that humbug is the essence of politics, except when politics become imbecile, and that of the two he preferred humbug; but that we I should be careful to distinguish between politics and statesmanship which emerges once in a generation among politicians. We might think along these lines today, when so much humbug is rife.
Examples? Well, that having built at astronomical cost a network of motorways to speed-up traffic it is now proposed to apply a 40 mph speed-limit on some of them at the busiest times, on the assumption that at low speeds less damage will be done when one car collides with the one in front of it. Maybe. But to enforce a temporary speed-limit will involve more expense, in police patrols and surveillance cameras, and it is unlikely, judging by the way occasional 50 mph signs on our M-ways are disregarded, that these sedate-40s will be observed. I am afraid that the lesson that speed is only dangerous under the wrong conditions will never sink in, to imbecile Government law-makers.
Normally M-ways are for speed and a good traffic flow, and anything lower than 70 mph in good weather and over repair-free sections is unlikely to be seen as reasonable. A recent survey for Green Flag National Breakdown showed that 18 per cent of drivers questioned thought that no-one took any notice of legal limits and the majority (61 per cent) thought that only some drivers did. The DoT has, in fact, reported seven out of ten drivers as exceeding urban limits. The Green Flag survey reported that 62% felt there was no advantage to them of the new 60 mph outer-lane ban for coaches on M-ways, and the overall picture was that maximum speed-limits do not seem to be slowing cars down and that most drivers ignore them. Yet the County Surveyors' Society, in conjunction with Oxford CC, wants a 55 mph limit on existing 60 mph roads. Just a start, maybe? Shall we one day have an overall 40-limit? It would be laughable, were it not so costly and imbecile. And after humbug, confusion.
Sussex's Chief Constable is reported as wanting a 90 mph M-way limit, drivers to lose their cars (did he mean licences?) if they exceed 90, the RAC and IAM advocate 80 mph, the AA says keep the 70-limit.
What of rail safety, now in question? Six years ago the Government promised to implement new safety measures. Nothing has been done, in spite of several horrific accidents. Humbug, that is costing lives. The slogan "It's Safer By Rail" isn't heard much now, but the BBC insists that trains are safer than road travel, but without statistics of total numbers of people transported over 24-hour periods. Whatever, I would prefer my destiny to be in my own hands (and feet), not in those of engine-drivers and signals.
Then there is imbecility in the malicious "Continuous Licensing" proposal and Humbug in the SMM&T's idea that those forced to run older cars, termed "bangers", will get them off the road in return for a £500 tax rebate. A nice bit of class distinction, Mr Major, regardless of the fact that stiffer MoT tests were presumably introduced to prevent the older cars from being a menace. Some people can't afford the new cars the SMM&T would like them to buy! After our recent comments about reasonable "bangers" we see, Praise Be, that the Autocar's leading columnist has followed suit, naming a friend's £190 Hyundai Stellar. He praises modern Fords, too.
Is the National Lottery verging on humbug, with the Saturday night BBC razzamatazz and growing disagreements as to how the profits are allocated, it seems with charities and the needy NHS ignored until very recently.
However, there are a few good laughs among the doom and gloom. Counselling for those who win the Lottery, for instance, when you and I would be too busy spending the lolly, on a brace of supercars no doubt. Or the suggestion that all politicians should be breathalysed before voting... So keep smiling, in spite of the War on the Car, higher vehicle taxes, more and probably lower speed-limits with Big Brother cameras trying to enforce them, and pending M-way tolls.