On the buses

First Bristol

A letter in Saturday’s Evening Cancer from this new UNITE super-union has a crack at Bristol North West’s Tory candidate Charlotte Leslie.

They accuse her of “breathtaking cant and hypocrisy” over her campaign for a better Bristol bus service because it was the Tory Party that deregulated and privatised local bus services in the 80s and created the current hopeless mess. Fair comment.

UNITE even quote Thatcher disapprovingly:

A man who, beyond the age of 30, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.

Only problem here is that it’s now very well known that there’s no record of Thatcher ever having said this. What’s UNITE’s source for this quote? Or can we assume they don’t really know what they’re on about?

Although on the issue of the buses UNITE do make some good points about privatision and deregulation and how commercial considerations and profit have taken precedence over providing a decent service for the public while drivers’ wages have fallen to about half the average wage since the 80s.

However their partisanship is ridiculous. What’s with the party political point scoring? The Labour Party has had, locally 20 years, and nationally over 10 years to sort out these useless deregulated bus services and has done nothing.

Indeed the Labour Party has not reversed any Thatcherite privatisations at all in the last ten years and they have even introduced private sector reforms into healthcare and education services, which is way beyond anything Thatcher dared do.

So why no criticism of the Labour Party from UNITE? Why condemn one set of Thatcherites but not another? Do they seriously believe Labour are working in the interests of their bus driving members or the wider bus using public?

If they do then they are cretins.

This entry was posted in Bristol, Conservatives, Labour Party, Trade Unionism, Transport. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to On the buses

  1. Woodsy says:

    Would this happen to be the same Charlotte Leslie who instigated an anti-congestion charging e-petition on the city council’s website ? Given that one of the reasons given by Farcebus for their appalling traffic in Bristol, I wonder how Ms. Leslie manages to reconcile these 2 seemingly contradictory objectives. Finally, she also managed to sign her own petition twice!

  2. Woodsy says:

    Correction – the second sentence in the comment above should read as follows: “Given that one of the reasons given by Farcebus for their appalling service is traffic congestion in Bristol, I wonder how Ms. Leslie manages to reconcile these 2 seemingly contradictory objectives”.

  3. Spin alert says:

    Leslie operates right out of the Cameron school of political spinning. I.e. say anything that sounds popular and never bother to remember the past or future consequenses of what you are saying. Perception is everything, reality is irrelevent because people are too stupid to see the reality.

    The “Unite” attack is because Labour are worried that with the idiot Sam Townend as PPC they will lose Bristol North West if there is an early election, so they have called in their allies.

    To be fair to them, Leslie is cringingly pompous and her perpetual brazen hypocrisy is worth having a big stab at!

    The E Post like Leslie and have been giving her a free ride…which is much more than First ever will!

  4. Jozer says:

    To be fair, the Thatcher quote is widely disseminated (I remember the failure’s age as being 26). Interesting if it really is ubtraceable.

  5. Lord Snot says:

    I do so wish you ignorant rabble would take care to ascribe quotations correctly. Of course it’s bally typical of the trade unions to blame Thatcher.
    Margaret Thatcher may be Satan incarnate, but she was (is) no snob. She was also far too canny a politician to ever have said anything so crass.
    For the record, the quote first appeared in a book by Loelia, Duchess of Westminster. She in turn later admitted she had pinched it from Brian Howard, one of the Bright Young Things of the 1920s, pal of Evelyn Waugh and that crowd. Howard was a promiscuous gay and wastrel who never lived up to his early talents and despite his impeccable breeding was even reduced to the ranks during the war for his many “indiscretions”, including leaving his uniform in public lavatories. His one footnote in history is that he was the model for the catty Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited.
    I hope this clears things up.

  6. A Pedant says:

    Lord Snot (aka Eugene Byrne) seems more intent on providing us with salacious tabloid fodder than the original source of the quote. The Misquotations section of the Wikiquote page on Maggie reads as follows regarding this particular item:

    Attributed to her in Commons debates, 2003-07-02, column 407 and Commons debates, 2004-06-15 column 697. According to a letter to the Daily Telegraph by Alistair Cooke on 2 November 2006, this sentiment originated with Loelia Ponsonby, one of the wives of 2nd Duke of Westminster who said “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life”. In a letter published the next day, also in the Daily Telegraph, Hugo Vickers claims Loelia Ponsonby admitted to him that she had borrowed it from Brian Howard. There is no solid evidence that Margaret Thatcher ever quoted this statement with approval, or indeed shared the sentiment.

  7. thebristolblogger says:

    Blimey. Next you lot will be telling me Gordon Brown doesn’t listen to the Arctic Monkeys on his iPod every morning.

  8. Interested to read comments above. Just thought I’d clarify why supporting a referendum for a congestion charge in Bristol and campaigning to hold First Bus to account are not contradictory.

    Firstly, if you look at my petition, it is not for or against the congestion charge as such. There are very plainly arguments for and against its introduction; otherwise the debate would not be so fierce. Therefore the assumption that I am against a congestion charge regardless of circumstances , is wrong.

    Whatever your personal preference for / against a congestion charge, we can agree that it would only work fairly and not penalise those hardest off if a good public transport system is working well alongside it to provide a real alternative to the car. If we are going to make a congestion charge work, we have got to make the buses work. That means looking seriously at the service First are offering. If there is no real public transport alternative and First’s fares continue to rise, ( as well as routes cut) , people will be priced off the road and off the bus. We can all agree that this would not be fair.

    I believe that the Bristol electorate are more than capable of making a sensible decision about transport in the city, given some proper information. A referendum would force some answers as to just how the bus situation would be improved. It would also provide an incentive for those involved in transport provision who might be pro-congestion charge (like First) to really pull their finger out and give us a taster of the kind of public transport improvements we can expect – In other words, front-load the potential pilot with some real public transport improvements. There have been a lot of promises on transport, but little improvement. Why should the electorate believe more promises that transport will improve provided they cough up to use the roads? And if a new Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Authority can deliver those tangible improvements, so much the better.

    Lastly, the basis for suggesting that calling for a referendum on congestion charging and campaigning to hold First to account are contradictory is merely that First are blaming their problems not on any weakness in themselves, but on too much traffic. It may well be the case that First Bus are facing some genuine challenges, but bear in mind that they are currently being forced onto the defensive. Who would expect First Bus to say “it’s a fair cop, we’re doing a shoddy job in a city that was simply built for buses. It’s all our fault.”? I’ve no doubt that congestion in Bristol is no help to First Bus, but let’s remember why so many people choose to use the car. Bearing this in mind, I think it might be sensible to take First’s comment in context.

    Best wishes,

    Charlotte Leslie

  9. Miss Leslie digs herself even further into the hole by reminding us that she is (and the Bristol Tories are) in favour of a “Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Authority”. If such an authority existed, IT would be the body taking the congestion charging decision. So what’s the point of having a Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Authority if they’re not allowed to make decisions anyway without referendum??

  10. Spot on Cllr Wright. The Tory position is not logically consistent – on the one hand they want a body to take big transport decisions yet at the same time they effectively want to take away one of its major decisions!

  11. Nick Webb says:

    The Bristol Conservatives support a “Transport for Bristol” style body. However, this will not happen until there is agreement from the neighbouring councils. Hopefully this can be agreed soon. In the meantime surely it is prudent to address the transport situation as we find it at present. I don’t think sitting on our hands and waiting for the STA to arrive is very wise when there are immediate transport issues to deal with.

  12. thebristolblogger says:

    Interesting to see that apparent progressives – ie. Lib Dems and Greens – appear keen on regressive green taxes.
    Didn’t regressive taxation do for Thatcher?
    Could there not be unintended social consequences to a congestion charge? Like massive disincentives for the low paid to work in the centre of town. There’s already massive disincentives to prevent them living there.
    Aren’t green taxes going to create more social division in an already divided city?
    Is inequality even on the middle class political agenda any more?

  13. Pete G says:

    Why should a congestion charge be regressive, Blogger? If (a big if, I know) it’s properly targetted, it’ll hit hardest against those who choose to drive the biggest cars in peak hours and don’t carry passengers. It will get some of them to change their habits, and that should cut some of the congestion and pollution.

    That’s not regressive, that’s progressive.

    Besides that, are you now an advocate of low paid work in the centre of town?

  14. Greens are certainly progressives and the congestion charge need not be regressive Blogger.

    Investing money, raised through congestion charging, in walking, cycling, public transport is progressive.

    Making buses and trains better and more affordable and pedestrian/cycling facilities better is a plus for everyone. We all benefit from cleaner air and those who will pay most to clean it up are those who pollute the air most (if its truly used as a green charge).

    On the inequality issue – its important not to forget fairness to future generations as well as the present. If we dont tackle problems like congestion, air pollution and climate change they will suffer – that’s a regressive move!

  15. S F says:

    Revenue from a congestion charge would go to public transport, which disproportionately favours the poor.

  16. Jon Eccles says:

    Some commenters seem to be confused about the use of the word ‘regressive’ in the context of tax. A regressive tax is one where the tax rate, as a proportion of income, falls as income rises. It is often applied to one-off payments with no basis in income, as in this case.

    The point is that someone on £10k pays the same congestion charge for a similar car as someone on £50k, which is a much higher proportion of their income. I think that’s what the Bristol Blogger meant in this context, rather than simply ‘regressive = reactionary’.

  17. Bluebaldee says:

    Here we go again – politicians trying to score cheap political points off each other, using the medium of Bristol’s totally useless public transport.

    I’ve never read such utter bollocks in my life.

    Congestion charge not regressive (regardless of its definition)? Rubbish!

    Won’t disproportionately hit the poor? Conkers!

    Will free up vast sums to be invested in public transport? Nonsense!

    For starters, let’s remember that it’s politicians of all hues that have failed Bristol’s public transport system in the first place. If they’d spent a bit more time fighting for the city they purport to represent instead of bickering with each other, we might just have a half decent light rail system by now. Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham, Glasgow etc have all managed it, but not the serially inept lot that somehow get elected in Bristol.

    Bristol’s twin city of Porto has constructed a five-line, 68 station Metro system in the last five years. Over the same period Bristol has managed to construct one-and-a-bit Shitcase bus routes. Utterly shocking, but totally true.

    A congestion charge will make sod-all difference to the rich, to company car drivers, lorries or politicians. It will disproportionately hit the poorest and the self-employed, hardest. As Jon Eccles points out, if you are on a low income the charge will be identical to the charge paid by a millionaire. To say otherwise is just downright mendacious.

    The hoary old chestnut of “money raised from the congestion charge will be invested in public transport, walking, cycling, pogosticking, hopscotch etc is just that. A hoary old chestnut.

    The money raised will go towards paying off the vast costs of implementing and administering such a scheme. Whatever’s left over will be creamed off in fat profits by whichever of Gordon’s chums gets the contract.

    You must be living in cloud-cuckoo land if you think that congestion charging is designed to raise money for anything else. It’s a just another tax on mobility and getting to work, so why not have the balls to be honest and call it by it’s name.

    And although I strongly dislike agreeing with Tories – why the hell shouldn’t we have a referendum? This city has been crapped on from a great height by Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems when it comes to transport over the years. So now you lot want this massive decision taken by yet another unelected quango, do you?

    The one and only reason that Lab, Lib Dems and Greens don’t want a referendum is that they know full well that the electorate’s answer will be a resounding NO, just like it was in Edinburgh.

    So much for local democracy. But that’s all you can really expect from politicians, because of course, they know better than the rest of us mere mortals.

    You’re not all secret shareholders in Farcebus, are you?

  18. Personally I’d like to see massive investment in public transport funded from general taxation…but it just ain’t gonna happen, so where’s the money for public public improvements going to come from??

    Why dont you propose a solution or stand in elections against the ‘politicians’ ?

  19. Bluebaldee says:


    I completely agree with you. I too would like to see a massive investment in public transport funded from general taxation.

    However, you’re totally wrong to suggest that it “ain’t gonna happen.”

    It seems to have happened quite nicely in Sheffield, Newcastle-Gateshead, Liverpool (Merseyrail), Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, London (of course), soon Edinburgh (just started building their tram system) and Birmingham.

    All the above cities have successful, well-used light and heavy rail systems.

    Why? Because their respective local and national politicians had the foresight to plan and fund these systems, whilst Bristol politicians did not. That’s why we’re in this current mess.

    In addition, the politicians in those other cities have had the balls to stand up to central Govt. when their expansion plans were denied.

    For example, recently Manchester wanted to expand its Metro and the Govt. said no, so the Manc. politicians dug their heels in and kicked up a right old fuss, neatly timing their histrionics with the last election. Lo and behold the Govt. did a u-turn and funded the expansion.

    Similarly in Nottingham, they submitted an application for funding to expand their tram system in their most recent Local Transport Plan. Hey presto, the Govt. funds it to the tune of a cool £420 million. Thank you very much.

    What do our local shower do? When the Govt. refused to fund the first line of the Bristol Supertram, our lot went off and sulked and bickered amongst themselves, like the useless bunch they are. How much did they apply for in the laughable Joint Local Transport Plan – £42 million for Shitcase bus routes, uselessly run by Farcebus at exorbitant prices. Gosh, what a brilliant lot we’ve got fighting our corner.

    None of our competitors have funded their systems from a congestion charge. They’ve gone ahead and provided public transport for their citizens. Bristol’s politicians haven’t, they’ve presided over a dreadful, deteriorating system and now they’ve got the absolutely bloody bare-faced cheek to try and impose a congestion charge. That’s why I despise them.

    They might not have any balls, but they’ve got more front than Brighton.

    Nottingham gets 10 times more funding than Bristol, for a smaller city! If ever there was a damning indictment of our local, failing politicians then that must be it.

    I find your comment about me proposing a solution and standing against our politicians rather trite.

    My job is to ensure that blood gets to seriously ill patients on time and in the right quantities. For that I get paid bugger-all, and barely enough to support my young family

    Politicians jobs are to ensure, amongst other things that this city has a decent public transport system. For that they get remunerated far better than I do.

    I’m pretty damn good at my job, they’re pretty damn shit at theirs.

    As a Green, you should know more than most that the three main parties have got local and national politics sewn up, so are you proposing that I spend lots of money and time fighting a futile battle that I can’t win?

    And I have proposed a perfectly good solution: politicians do your bloody jobs and fight for this city on transport, education and culture, three areas where you have failed so damn miserably.

  20. Yes, it ain’t gonna happen with the shower we have running Bristol at present, ‘competing’ (badly) for a pot of money that is too limited in total size anyway!

    On standing in elections – I’ve got a job but am so pissed off with the way things are that I do stand in elections. I dont agree with your fatalistic attitude – where does it take us?

  21. Bluebaldee says:

    Fatalistic? I prefer to call it healthy cynicism. I like to engage and debate with politicians, but I don’t want to be one

    The money is there, in fact this country has never been as awash with money as it is now. It’s just that politicians don’t want to spend it on things that will benefit ordinary people, like decent public transport. They manage it in Europe, but not here and that’s the fault of local and national politicians and their apologists.

    You still haven’t addressed the congestion charge issue.

    Surely your Green credentials demonstrate that you are a firm believer in social justice and local democracy.

    How do you reconcile that will the grossly unfair congestion charge that will punish those on low-medium wages, hit the self-employed and have no impact on the wealthy, their heavily polluting vehicles, and large companies?

    Denying citizens a vote on such an important issue as the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour are striving to do flies in face of the principles of local democracy.

    What are you afraid of? Do you have no confidence and conviction in your pro-charging argument?

  22. OK not everyone wants to be a politician. You are inclearly involved which is great. I do agree with you that money for transport investment is present in the country but not harnessed to benefit people. Taxes would have to be raised for the scale of investment I want though as well as diverting money from other places.

    There are ways of introducing congestion charging I would oppose, and others I would support. I dont accept that the charge has to be unfair. Unfortuneately the charge seems to be ‘the only game in town’ at present as far as making driving costs more fairly reflect its total costs, especially to human and environmental health (and even this is not likely to happen in Bristol for some yrs, if at all).

    Personally my number one green option (AS A POLITICIAN ALWAYS TAKING A POPULIST STANCE !!!) has not been congrestion charging/road pricing but to substantially raise fuel taxes, such that road tax and basic insurance are also paid for (and cant be avoided) and so that fossil fuel use costs include the total cost of the effects of its use. Its fuel use that is directly related to environmental impacts, vehicle size/type, miles travelled, travelling conditions like congestion….The extra income could be used to say, triple public transport investment – that’s the scale of investment needed, for me.

    I’m not myself campaigning strongly against a referendum and in principle would like to see more of such direct democracy. I do feel that if a Strategic Transport Authority is set up I would want it to make the decision. I’d want the authority to be established and run democratically, openly – encouraging full participation. Why not allow the Transport Authority to decide for itself on the decision making process?

  23. Bluebaldee says:

    We’re definitely not a million miles apart on this one.

    An increase in fuel tax and a possible workplace car parking tax would be reasonable if the money was fully ringfenced to spend on improving public transport, cycleways and cycle facilities etc.

    Bristol hasn’t had a fair crack of the whip in public transport funding and this must change prior to the imposition of demand management measures.

    If Bristol had a comprehensive, affordable, not-for-profit public transport network that was fully integrated, I’d have absolutely no qualms about supporting any demand management measures, including a congestion charge. Personally, I can’t stand driving in any city at peak times, let alone Bristol. It’s a hideous nightmare of Wagnerian proportions.

    My problem is with the current proposals, for which the quangocrats of the four Councils that Used to Be Avon (CUBA) are currently beavering away on. Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly’s draft guidance to the 10 areas that want to pilot the charge states that to keep costs down, blue badge holders should not be exempt from the charge, as any exemption would be too difficult to manage and might be open to abuse.

    The bastards.

    So, you’re unfortunate enough to be disabled, public transport is doubly crap and difficult to access for you, so your car is an absolute lifleline. Kelly and her cronies want to tax you (again) on that mobility. That’s just pure, unadulterated evil in my book.

    In addition, Kelly’s draft Transport Bill wants to remove statutory consultation with the public prior to the imposition of congestion charging. Not a referendum, actual consultation.

    These are but two of the many reasons why I am so vehemently opposed to the congestion charge proposals as they stand. And two very good reasons why these proposals royally shaft both social justice and local democracy.

    I’ve spent hours and hours studying these proposals (my wife’s delighted!), on the DfT website, JLTP website, I’ve read the full Eddington Report and the entire Transport Committee’s scrutiny of the draft Transport Bill, chaired by Gwyneth Dunwoody.

    These proposals are totally flawed and should be fought as they fly in the face of democracy, social equality and will have little environmental effect. They represent yet another opportunity for companies such as Capita and First to dip their hands into the pockets of working people and further enrich the rich – their shareholders.

  24. Bluebaldee says:

    Forgot to say – I completely agree with you that moeny should be diverted from other areas to pay for proper transport improvements.

    £20 billion (and rising) for Trident?

    £10 billion for aircraft carriers?

    God knows how many billion for further destroying Iraq.

    Regarding a Bristolian Strategic Transport Authority – ideally it should make these decisions. But in the real world – open, democratic, participatory, oblivious to the lobbyists employed by First and Capita?

    That’s why I’m a cynic!

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