The Grauniad reports that London is about to breach its annual allowance of “bad air days”. The consequence of the city’s authorities’ impotence in preventing summer smogs is that they will be fined £300m. Three hundred million pounds.
And four to five thousand people will die prematurely every year.
That’s twenty five times as many people as die in “collisions” on London’s roads; more even than get seriously injured.
The Guardian rightly chastise the authorities — primarily the mayor — for their hopeless incompetence in allowing such a massive preventable loss of life to occur, and for throwing away such a vast quantity of our money at a time when we’re all being told we must tighten our belts. It was Boris’s absurd decision to reduce the congestion charge footprint, and his pointless delaying of the low emission zone introduction that are to blame, they say. They come so close to identifying the problem. And yet they don’t actually mention it: they don’t name the actual source of the problem. Why do we have smogs? The politicians are to blame for ignoring the problem, but who created the problem in the first place?
We have smogs in London because a dangerous minority of the population are invited to burn oil in our streets; because a selfish minority elect to use a singularly inappropriate method of transporting themselves across it. We have smogs because the public has chosen to devote vast tracts of land and sophisticated expensive infrastructure to the proposition that driving into central London is acceptable behaviour. We have smogs because London’s authorities have simply decided that what the city needs is twenty one thousand dirty diesel burning black cabs running around half empty all day, every day; needs them so much that they are to be given an even freer reign over our city than the already free reign given to private cars and trucks.
We have smogs because people don’t consider or care for the consequences of their actions. And we have smogs because some people think that the consequences don’t matter because they’re paying for it. “When you start paying road tax and insurance and get a number plate and MOT…”
Your and my council tax will be paying for London’s £300 million fine; a collective punishment for the selfish behaviour of the few. Meanwhile, no amount of any tax will make it OK for five thousand Londoners to die slowly, painfully, miserably, rasping through ruined lungs.