On the 11 May 2010, following a general election which gave no party an overall majority of seats in parliament, the prime-minister, Gordon Brown, resigned, bringing to an end thirteen years of Labour government in the United Kingdom. In its place, a coalition government of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties was formed. With two parties having to negotiate and compromise, many ministerial candidates had to settle with portfolios that they did not especially want. One of these was the secretary of state for transport, Phillip Hammond, a Tory treasury man with no understanding of any form of transport except the road that his Jaguar takes from his Surrey constituency to Parliament Square.
Upon accepting the transport portfolio, Hammond announced that as transport secretary he would end Labour’s War On The Motorist. By announcing the end of a tabloid fantasy — not only had Labour failed to adequately tackle the problems of car and road-haulage dependency, it had positively reinforced them — Hammond was positioning his department in opposition to evidence and evidence-based transport policy. He was pledging to put Conservative ideology and tabloid-friendly announcements ahead of policies that had been shown to work. He was pledging to be a failure, to make transport in Britain a failure, to run-down the railways, let cycling stagnate, and leave a legacy of roads even more gridlocked than they already are.
At War With The Motorist was set up in response to Hammond’s absurd announcement. We document the current transport situation in Britain, follow the proclamations and activities of the transport secretary and his department, as well as those of the Mayor of London and local authorities, and we seek to understand the evidence for and against competing transport policies. We take a skeptical look at tabloid columns, and a sometimes nerdy look at transport psychology, statistics, and economics. We’re not professional transport commentators, and are entirely independent from all transport-related industries: we are merely interested lay people.
Our target audience is not the hardened Motorist. We recognise that there is little that we can do for them. Our aim is in part to motivate the pedestrians and cyclists and train and bus commuters who are an afterthought in Hammond’s vision. And our aim is in part to try to make our own little voices occasionally heard between the shrill ravings of the tabloid hacks: to add to the many little people who are trying to tell politicians and planners that people want an alternative to roads and cars, not more of the same mess that we have now.
We’re always on the look-out for more people who like to spend their spare time writing accessible coverage of parliamentary reports and academic papers, or devastatingly sarcastic demolitions of Daily Mail articles. If you have a story for us, or are interested in reporting on the war in your area, contact joe at cotch dot net.