Biggest cock-up yet? Dept for Transport has provided 11,500 charging points when 1 million needed. Instead cycle lanes for non-existent cyclists in UK. UGH!

And over £1bn on the policy, not their money of course.

The Times on 9 March p10 “Drivers face fines for overtaking close to cyclists.” Later in the article, “Jesse Norman, the transport minister with responsibility for cycling, said ‘we need to become a nation of cyclists and this government wants to make cycling the natural choice of transport for people of all ages and backgrounds.’” !!!

I am sorely provoked. I must return to cyclists. They provide just one more example of egocentrics thinking that everyone else wants what they want, when they don’t,  and misusing the words Equality and Human Rights to claim it, here auto-phobic egocentrics. They combine that with an enormous amount of wishful thinking and totally ignore the needs of the Car Industry and everyone else.

“Our NHS, Our Legal System, Our Parliament, “the envy of the world.” Are they?” Must wait.

Meanwhile, they’ve all the way to go in Newcastle.

Here are the National Cycling to Work stats for Newcastle 1,781 in 2001 rising to 3,223 in 2011. No cycle lanes the excuse? Well, look at John Dobson Street when you provide one. It’s known locally as a skateboard park. Sustrans, the Cycling lobby – authors of “Urban Planning for Dummies–  has persuaded the Department of Transport to make them a national transport planner; they are a long way away in Bristol where they are based – the City they have made Britain’s first Cycling City. There an increase of 62% in cycling accidents since.

I am sure that cyclists, and Sustrans in particular, believe that they have an equal right to be on the road as everyone else and, austerity or no austerity, that the State should provide as much money and cause as much gridlocking, time-wasting inconvenience to others as it takes to enable them to do so safely. No responsibility to pay road tax, no obligation to provide 3rd party insurance notwithstanding.

And this is where they go fundamentally wrong.

The Relativity of many Human Rights

When it comes to Colour, Race, Religion, Voting and Gender-pay the equality of your right is absolute, unquestioned. Positive or negative discrimination should be off limits.

Everywhere else, there is a hierarchy of rights, nowhere more so than on roads and pavements. Everywhere else other people have their rights too. The failure to see this bankrolls human rights lawyers who raise people’s expectations and feed off the disillusionment and aggro’ that follows.. And closing over 100 special schools in the UK  ignoring that another illustration. Rights of some are relative to the Rights of others and fair play should reconcile them. Forget Equality here.

Take roads. First in the hierarchy security vehicles, ambulances, fire engines, and police cars, then buses, then taxis, then vans and delivery vehicles, then cars and last cyclists because, in the UK, they are a significant minority with weather inclement, contours hilly, and many busy, narrow, twisting roads dangerously unsuitable for them.

On pavements, unless on a lane specifically designated for them, they have no rights whatsoever, although you may sometimes wonder whether they know that.

In short, here their rights are relative to the rights of others not absolute, and fair play not equality should be the guiding light in providing for them, in deciding how much to spend.

And see where it leads you when you don’t understand this. The headline in the article. I must ask some questions here. Will cyclists be fined for cycling too close to a vehicle when they clip a driving mirror as they pass? Will they be fined if they ride two abreast or more on a busy road? Will they be fined if they ride through a red light or slalom through traffic?

They should wear helmets; of course, they should. But you can’t make this compulsory and hope to hire out cycles in city centres. So, the danger of serious accident and mortality without a helmet will continue, only more so as you encourage more people to cycle.

HSBC currently puts out ads at share-holder expense wanting to double the number of cyclists on the road by 2020. Who, I wonder, put them up to that?

Wishful thinking costs lives

It may contribute to combatting obesity but any gain to the NHS will be offset by the accidents and fatalities they cause. Any contribution to saving the planet miniscule unless you are a particularly optimistic wishful thinker.

Electric Motoring Revolution is on the doorstep. The urgent need is charging points. That is what the Department of Transport should be focussing on. The new generation of electric cars will make roads healthier and safer. Won’t do anything for obesity. I shall have something to say about that next time.

With Brexit, when the cat’s away, the mouse will play. There are far too many blind mice, and most of them are in Whitehall, in the Department of Transport.

PS Times March 12 page 22 “The Department of Transport spokesman said that more than 11,500 public charging points had been installed, including 900 rapid chargers.” With all leading motor manufacturers announcing plans for hybrid and electric cars, plus Dyson and Apple, how many charging points will we need by 2020?

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The UK’s Cycling Scandal and the Chronic inertia in High Places – continued

I have focused all my attention on the cycling cock-up on Gosforth High Street and the Folly that is John Dobson Street in Newcastle; but the real problem with cycle lanes is not in Newcastle.


Newcastle simply did what they were paid to do; but they did it with relish and abandonment. Hence my criticism of their maladministration that the Local Government Ombudsman said did not exist, and Bindmans LLP thought that my 100+ page dossier detailing it was of no arguable substance for judicial review and “bound to fail.”

The problem is that UK Governments have no reverse gear when all the evidence suggests that new urban cycle lanes on narrow, already congested highly polluted roads is madness; the entire focus should now be planning the arrival of the new generation of autonomous electric vehicles with charging points and parking places freeing town and city centres from pollution in just three or four years time.

Why must the dead hand of the past control the present and the future?

There is a convention that once a Minister makes a policy statement it must happen. A Manifesto pledge is given and, if from the Government, it too must happen. An Act of Parliament is a direction to the Executive to deliver it. A new sacrosanct Human Right is created, and it must be respected even if other rights conflict with it.

But what if it is ill prepared – very ill advised – extremely naïve – or just plain stupid? What if it has been hijacked by handful of political zealots or a lobby?

No criticism is allowed. It is too late. No damage limitation. It is an admission of weakness and official fallibility. Checks and balances are permanently out of order. They are a nuisance. No post mortems. Protect backs, and save faces – hundreds of them. Media focuses on Rip Off Britain in Private Sector never in the Public sector. Public Sector is good – Private Sector and its profit motive bad, but the Left’s ideological denial of the State’s gross abuse of power far, far greater than any abuse by private enterprise, is mind-blowing in its sublime ineptitude.

So, protect the reputation of British Civil Service as the best in the world – it may or may not be – but meanwhile, we must all suffer the consequences for ever from its uncorrected cock-ups, and throw away taxpayers money as though it grew on rhododendron trees.


In my retirement I see this with 360-degree vision. I quote T S Eliot in Four Quartets, Little Gidding 1942 that I preface the Prologue to my book Death of a Nightingale

“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”

This is me.

I have witnessed two acts of political lunacy at very close quarters, not just one – one the act of the Newcastle City Council, the other the act of the Sunderland City Authority; but both enthusiastically pursuing policies driven from London. They made me think as never before.

It has gives me some satisfaction to have helped local residents and traders in Gosforth Newcastle persuade the City Council drop their plan to put cycle lanes and red lines on Gosforth High Street for non-existent cyclists, narrowing and further congesting a main arterial road and putting at health & safety risk any cyclists who would have used the cycle lane and inhaled toxic diesel fumes from ever slower moving traffic. They would seem to have done so.

It has given me even more satisfaction to have helped in Sunderland the parents of Barbara Priestman School for physically disabled children in their successful campaign to keep their school open when nationally the policy was to close it,

I did not need to do any of this. I shall explain at the end the gruesome reason why I did so and why I write what follows. I flag up a chronic malaise where a relatively small number of people cock things up permanently for the rest of us.

With cycling, it is a Chicken and Egg situation. Nick Clegg, then LibDems Deputy Prime Minister in the Coalition Government, is the Chicken, and Sustrans, the National Cycling Charity and Cycling Lobby, the Egg. It doesn’t matter which came first.

Nick Clegg as Deputy PM, publicly announced Government policy to double the number of cyclists on UK’s roads by 2020. Maybe he wanted to reconnect LibDems with the student vote he had lost with his broken pledge on student loans. Meanwhile Sustrans had as its vision that one driver in five would give up his or her car for a cycle for all short journeys if there were cycle lanes to cycle on. A toxic mix if ever there was one. Sustrans, with its Vision Zero, totally ignores the increase in accidents to cyclists of over 60% in recent years in Bristol, Britain’s First Cycling City and their own home base. Egocentrity OTT.

In the Prologue to Death of a Nightingale, having spent three years working professionally for the Liberal Party in Victoria Street in London, I wrote: “I shared with him my view as to the Achilles Heel of the Liberal – naïveté.” Here was another prime example. No health & safety examination. No joined up thinking with urban pollution and the VW scandal. No market research or test marketing so far as I can see. Just a simple assumption that what works in Copenhagen and Amsterdam would work in UK’s narrow winding urban and rural roads. Save the planet. Combat obesity. Just the simplistic Liberal DIY quick-fix approach to complex problems.

And with Sustrans no 360 degree vision, more like 10 degree vision – not in their line of sight an aging population, the lifestyles of people very different from their own and the coming of the autonomous electric cars. All of this as far from their little minds as Robinson Crusoe on his desert island was from the real world.

The same is true, I suspect, of the upper echelons of the Civil Service, I guess ex public school, ex Oxbridge, ex real world, relatively young, starry eyed and, in London, probably can be seen riding bicycles to work. Book-wise yes. Street-wise I suspect almost totally lacking.

Thus the Department of Transport endorsed all this and now do their best to implement it with the Treasury opening its coffers. Over a billion pounds made available to Sustrans and others directly and indirectly via local authorities bidding for it.

The following is sheer bureaucratic folly and I quote it in its entirety. Note the carefully detailed costings.

They actually boast a plan for 2040! Five Year Plans were bad enough for those who can remember Stalin’s 5 Year Plans n Russia and George Brown’s here in the UK.

The government has published its £1.2 billion long-term plan to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys.

The government wants cycling and walking to become the norm by 2040 and will target funding at innovative ways to encourage people onto a bike or to use their own two feet for shorter journeys.

Plans include specific objectives to double cycling, reduce cycling accidents and increase the proportion of 5 to 10 year-olds walking to school to 55% by 2025.

The £1.2 billion is allocated as follows:

£50 million to provide cycling proficiency training for further 1.3 million children

£101 million to improve cycling infrastructure and expand cycle routes between the city centres, local communities, and key employment and retail sites

£85 million to make improvements to 200 sections of roads for cyclists

£80 million for safety and awareness training for cyclists, extra secure cycle storage, bike repair, maintenance courses and road safety measures

£389.5 million for councils to invest in walking and cycling schemes

£476.4 million from local growth funding to support walking and cycling

In addition, the government is investing an extra:

£5 million on improving cycle facilities at railway stations

£1 million on Living Streets’ outreach programmes to encourage children to walk to school

£1 million on Cycling UK’s ‘Big Bike Revival’ scheme which provides free bike maintenance and cycling classes

And for an illustration of built-in chronic inertia it would be difficult to beat this:

“Under the Infrastructure Act 2015 , the government is required to set a ‘Cycling and walking investment strategy’ for England. This is the first of a series of shorter term, 5 year strategies to support the long-term ambition to make walking and cycling the natural choice for shorter journeys by 2040.”

The insanity is entrenched. It will need another Act of Parliament to undo the damage.

Meanwhile what they should be doing is planning charging points and parking places for electric autonomous cars, pollution free, due to arrive in the 2020’s in ever increasing numbers.


With Special Educational Needs, few know that the start was a little amendment put in Labour’s 1976 Education Act in a forty minute debate in the House of Lords. This way a small clique of egocentric zealots determined the line of travel for special educational needs provision in the Warnock Report two years later with its harmful legacy to this day.

One size was to fit all. No account of human fallibility – kids and their teachers. Continuing classroom disorder and likelihood of bullying ignored. The cost of extra help for mainstream – Non Teaching Assistants up from about 50,000 to over 265,000, partly for this, not anticipated. Rights of children with special needs created. Rights of children without special needs ignored.

For my sins I take Times Ed waiting for the light to dawn. It never does.

Equalise, Equalise Equalise – Homogenise. Homogenise. Homogenise.

I have written about this at length.


If Britain is to go it alone after Brexit, it needs to be fit to travel. Currently it isn’t.


Helena Kennedy QC is a Human Rights lawyer and Labour Peer. She chaired the Power Inquiry in 2004 to investigate the decline in popular participation and involvement in formal politics, and in its report in 2006 made 30 recommendations.

I don’t know what has happened to them since – I suspect not much – but, as I continue with this post, I am going to make some suggestions to deal with the problem I have outlined, I am going to challenge her to endorse my them. I hope you will help me gain her active support for them in the Lords.

Who is responsible for Social Immobility? Who is stopping you moving up in the world besides yourself?


Last time I described how a small group of Ideologues used three slogan words Inclusion, Equality and Human Rights to oversimplify the very complex world of special educational needs and perpetuate the blunder for the last 40 years.

Inclusion didn’t respect diversity. Equality didn’t allow for fair play for other pupils and teachers and carers. Human Rights didn’t allow for their human rights. Here, and often elsewhere, rights are relative not absolute, sometimes without any benefit whatsoever. Fine for some, non-existent for others, bullied, deprived, and excluded even in an inclusive environment. Practicality ignored. Costing non-existent.

This time social mobility. Do any politicians really care?

All three political parties use slogan words to make it look as though they do. On the Right – One Nation and Britain works for everyone. On the Left –Equality of Opportunity. That mischief word Equality again, when what many need is simply Opportunity. And their oft-repeated concern for the Disadvantaged.

When do you think people have moved up in the world? What does social mobility mean in practice?

To move up in the world Income Equality is a total nonsense. Fair play is a legitimate request. Success will be of value but, realistically, the benefit will be marginal.

Some would have you believe – simplistically again – that a university degree is a passport for life. If that is the case the 50% who don’t go to Uni have no chance at all. Instead they are stigmatised in school, and later in life, as failures. More word abuse here; the quest for “parity of esteem” in the pursuit of Equality is another nonsense. What kids should be provided with is self-esteem.

Technical education in colleges and Polytechnics along with their diplomas ended because they did not rank. Special schools were not the only casualties of political dogma simplistically encapsulated in slogan words. It’s taken a long time for apprenticeships to become in vogue. In 2017, out of 500,000 apprenticeships, only 2,100 went to higher or degree apprenticeships.

Anyway, as you will shortly see, for many getting a degree may stop you moving up in the world.

In my book, what determines whether you have moved up in the world is this. Can you buy your own home not rent one? Can you put money into a pension and not be totally reliant on the State in your old age? Can you choose your Care Home if you should need one? Can you choose your own doctor and the time of your op? Can you choose the school for your kids? Yes, can you book into a world cruise, or buy a Merc or a Jag or even a Porche if that’s your fancy, not mine as it happens.

Selfish? Self-indulgent? Middle Class Tory? 

Maybe, but these are the tests of your new-found opportunity to control your own destiny and not be beholden to your employer, the State, or in the private sector. This is the test for social mobility; you don’t need to go to Uni to achieve it; many have succeeded without that.

What prevents it?

Escalating property prices – especially in London – due to cheap money since 2008 and student loans with 6.1% interest compound from day 1. The latest figures I have seen from the Institute of Fiscal studies, report the average student debt is £50,000 – note the word average – and 83% of graduates will not clear them within 30 years. Okay for some, but not for all. A degree a passport for life? More like a lottery ticket.

Why RPI +3% interest? Student loans are a clever way for the Treasury to fund HE on the never-never when they can sell off unpaid loans that even bankruptcy cannot disown. Student loans come with ball & chain attached. How many involved? Well, student debt in UK is now about £1bn and in the USA $1.2 Trillion. This generation is stuck with them and with the people who will chase them if they don’t pay. What happens if inflation takes off again under a Corbyn Government? What about the next generation? I write for them more than for anyone else.

A recent English Housing Survey said that in 2005-06 24% of those aged 25-34 were privately renting. Today, 46%. Over the same period, in the same age group those buying a home with a mortgage plummeted from 53% to 35%.

And better behave in your job too.

If you are one of the ruling class or a State boss, working in central or local government or in a Quango, an Ombudsman maybe, debt, especially student debt, is a great way to control your staff, suppress dissent, get people to lie, and dissemble. It is one of the most persuasive tools of authoritarianism. You need your job.

The Milgram experiment showing that personal conscience loses out when faced with the commands of authority along with membership of the National Mutual Self-Protection Society that I mentioned in my last article suggests that these tools are almost surplus to requirement.

All of this, comrades, is social im-mobility.

Does the Left really care? Does Academia care? Student loans feed them. Does the Establishment of the Right care? The Government has recently announced another Review. In a year’s time, no doubt it will go into the long grass where you will find the 2006 Power Report and much else besides.

There is an answer. Bring back State Scholarships.

But the Left has queered the pitch.

They have smeared the pursuit of Excellence, open to all, with the pejorative word Elitism, the privilege of the few. They have made the word Selection dirty. It was okay for Charlie Darwin. German education has thrived on it. There they call their engineers Herr Doctor. But if everyone can’t have a State Scholarship, no one must have one.

Instead they talk constantly of their concern for the Disadvantaged. Beware that word too.

It masks the all-important distinction among the have-nots, between the never-haves and the would-haves, the aspirational, where fair play not Equality should be the guiding light. Without that distinction you accept mediocrity and totally undervalue excellence which, comrades, can be very unequal. This is 30-degree vision impairment not 360-degree vision empowerment.

Scholarships and bursaries for the gifted, talented, ambitious, and the pursuers of excellence should not be off-limits because they are unequal. They are fair. And very important for post-Brexit UK plc competing in the big wide world.

Instead Jeremy Corbyn talks ambiguously of their aim to write off £1bn of student debt amongst all their other spends – well, they could always print the money with QE to fund higher education, inflation and higher interest rates a necessary consequence. Anyway, when you press them, it’s not a priority!

Meanwhile the One Nation Tories HO!HO! say they want to build more houses. What good is that if your student loan prevents you getting a mortgage? They could bring back State Scholarships and increase the demand. They could. They could increase supply and bring down prices if they put a tax on land values that would make it uneconomic to sit on vacant land. LVT works well in Singapore. They could. For them too, not a priority. And click this and read about the “Goldfish Bowl”, the real barrier to social mobility.

Caveat Emptor doesn’t just apply to goods and services. It applies to promises made by political parties to get your votes, and the words they use to make them.

Next time Our NHS, Our Legal System, Our Parliament, “the envy of the world.” Are they?