Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Because Concrete’s So Much Prettier Than Grass

Oh dear. I know every party has people who say dodgy things, but when you reach a certain level of responsibility, you should aspire to think before opening your mouth. A Conservative Member of the London Assembly, my local mini-Parliament, thinks London isn’t concreted over enough. No, seriously. And I say ‘a Member’; actually, he chairs it. He’s London’s top elected Tory. Brian Coleman (Con, Barnet and Camden) told the Evening Standard: “I think we could do with a multi-storey car park on the site for 1,000 cars. That’s what Londoners need. Parks in central London we’re not short of.”

Apparently Tory ‘Green’ pretensions are only for elections, not for life. It won’t be a surprise to anyone to learn that Conservatives’ instincts are really the reverse of what Mr Cameron pretends they are, or that even they think he’s just saying any old rubbish for electoral effect. And everybody knows about the great big car that follows Mr Cameron’s ‘green’ bike every day to carry his shoes, or the jet he flew off in to pose by a glacier. But there are limits to how much hypocrisy is decent, surely?

I live in London – albeit not in Mr Coleman’s patch – and, you know, green spaces are what Londoners need, and we are indeed short of them. Mind you, Mr Coleman isn’t advocating a car park on his patch either, oh no; he wouldn’t dare concrete over Hampstead, but Southwark’s all right for him. By an amazing coincidence, it’s an area that regularly has amongst the lowest Tory votes in the whole of Britain. That seems awfully convenient, but I’m sure it hadn’t entered Mr Coleman’s head ;-)

It’s not just ‘parks’, and it’s not just the grumbling of someone who grew up in the mostly suburban seat of Hazel Grove and misses the way there are still great open spaces there, or that I can go to the end of my parents’ road and see enormous great hills looking pretty in the distance. Yes, green spaces are nice to look at, but now I’m a Londoner that’s not what I think of on a day-to-day basis.

I think of how many times I forget to take my asthma inhalers with me when I go out and soon find myself coughing or short of breath by London roads.

I think of coming in and washing my face every time to get the gritty particles out of my eyes.

I think of Richard being out late with friends last week, standing outside because it was cooler, and taking off his glasses when he got home to find great dirty streaks on his face where the grime from all of London’s cars had been blocked by his frames.

I think that reducing car use and improving public transport would be a better aspiration for an elected politician than building more space for more cars that make fewer people actually very happy or healthy, and rarely even let you move around very much in London traffic.

And I think Mr Coleman’s a lethal idiot.

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Surely his party leader will dsown him.
Ah, Peter, if only that were true.

PS: You know how you should be putting a ‘Green Action’ story on every FOCUS you ever put out? Well, here’s one for free for anywhere in London. Though, obviously, Southwark, Barnet and Camden might have that special punch.
dunno - isn't Mr Coleman's comment entirely consistent with his leader's "bananas" comments on greenfield development:

Peter, you're having a laugh aren't you?

Not only is Coleman not being disowned by the Tories, but a lot of his ideas are echoed in the recent nonsense that John Redwood put out about allowing cars to jump red lights, forcing cycle lanes onto pavements and allowing pretty much anyone to drive on bus lanes.

And while Coleman isn't promising to concrete over Barnet (his burra), he is part of the cabal here whose first act following them taking back control of the council in 2001, was to rip out any sleeping policeman they could find and thus bankrupting their highways budget for years to come.

The big irony is that Barnet is one of those areas where the Cameron effect was most beneficial to the Tories. But the message the local headbangers got was that they had been vindicated: their first act was to replace their relatively moderate group leader with someone more to Brian Coleman's liking.

I've seen the future of the Conservatives and it's Coleman.
Wilcock for the GLA?
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