Breath taking hypocrisy from one of Yesterday’s Men.

Boris told such dreadful lies

It made one stare and stretch one’s eyes.

The (Right) Honourable Member for Uxbridge, who can occasionally be spotted sprawled in an entitled somnolent slump across several green benches in the House of Commons, like a haystack made of melting blubber*, is trying to restore his broken political fortunes by opposing clean air in Outer London. 

Even though 85% of cars in outer London already meet ULEZ standards, Johnson is trying to whip up a “they are coming for your cars” reaction among suburban drivers on a par with the NRA’s campaigns against gun controls. “You will take my steering wheel out of my cold dead hands…”

He says that the ULEZ expansion scheduled for the end of August is unnecessary because Outer London does not have a problem with polluted air.

There is a skill taught in Public Schools called “oiling”. Future masters of the universe are taught to speak complete self-serving BS with such insouciance and self confidence that, even if they’ve just made it up, most people will believe them. Johnson has been found out so many times that people now see though him for the most part; which is why those in the Conservative Party who think he would restore their fortunes if hoisted back into Downing Street are such desperate fantasists, but its a useful exercise to show just how wrong he is.

You can test this on the site on which Imperial College analyses air quality in each post code. Checking three postcodes at random in Johnson’s own Uxbridge constituency reveals one (UB8 1GW) at the 98th national percentile (only two points off being as bad as you can get) and breaching 3 WHO limits. Another (UB8 2DL) is in the 93rd percentile, another (UB10 9LD) is in the 91st, but both also breaching 3 WHO limits. Another (UB8 2DL) is in the 93rd percentile, also breaching 3 WHO limits.

The health consequences of breaching these limits are listed on the site as follows.

Pollutant one: PM2.5

At this address, the annual average of the pollutant PM2.5 is 12.73mcg/m3. The World Health Organization limit is 5mcg/m3.

This study shows 19.9% of strokes were attributed to exposure (for a year or more) of PM2.5 concentrations exceeding 10mcg/m3.

PM2.5 can also cause asthma, jeopardize lung functions and promote cancer.

Pollutant two: PM10

The reading for PM10 at this address is 20.59mcg/m3. The limit is 15mcg/m3.

Exposure (for a year or more) to 20mcg/m3 leads to increased risk of total, cardiovascular and diabetes mortality.

PM10 can cause wheezing, bronchitis and reduce lung development.

Pollutant three: NO2

The reading for N02 at this address is 39.88mcg/m3. The limit is 10mcg/m3.

Exposure (for a year or more) to 40mcg leads to a 11% increased risk of disease related mortality.

There is also strong evidence to suggest it leads to respiratory symptoms including irritation, coughing, shallow breathing and difficulty breathing.

A comparison with Inner London is instructive. NW1 3UD is on the Euston Road. It is in the 99th percentile, NW3 3RE is in the 94th and NW5 4LS in the 92nd; all in the same range as Uxbridge. All breaching the same three WHO limits and all with the same adverse health effects.

So, Outer London does have a polluted air problem and, if Johnson were serious about the need to support people hit by a cost of living crisis exacerbated by governments he has led or supported, and the difficulties faced by people forced to commute into London in old bangers because they have been driven out of the city by the soaring house prices and rents that he was content to let rip as Mayor, he should join Sadiq Khan in demanding that the government match fund the scrappage scheme to support them, in the way they have been prepared to do in Bristol, Bath, Birmingham and Sheffield.

But, I’m not holding my breath…

*If anyone finds this offensive, please be reassured that this is in the same post modernist jokey spirit as Boris Johnson’s Daily Telegraph columns and can’t possibly be taken seriously.

Hummer Bummer.

Behind a door, someone is playing “somewhere over the rainbow” on a Hammond organ, somehow haunting and cheesy at the same time.

Going round delivering early voting packs for erstwhile Labour supporters for the Mayoral election – partly because the leadership of the Party is keener on neutralising the Left than actually winning and doing such a fabulous job of driving our poll support ever downwards, and it will make a material difference to people’s lives whether the next London Mayor is Sadiq Khan or the Tory – I notice that a disturbing number of them have big SUVs parked out front.

An extreme expression of this is parked up on the pavement and half way across a cul de sac; designed and built long before mass car ownership and completely inappropriate for it. A sparkling white Humvee, slightly smaller than our flat and probably just as heavy, squats like a reinforced steel toad and screams “look at me!” This is not an economic choice. With a fuel consumption of just 4 miles per gallon in the city, this on road off road light tank is a rather needy statement on the part of its owner. The message, “go big or go home” painted front and back removes any ambiguity about that.

I wonder about how the clash between the imperative to clean up our air, sharply cut our carbon emissions and travel in healthier ways, will play out against the presumption so many car owners have that its ok to pave over green space to park on, to turn streets that could be playgrounds or parks into rat runs, to drive around spewing out pollution for other people to breathe in – that costs the health service in London £8,000 per vehicle in treating the consequences – trumps all other considerations. As one angry woman said to me on the doorstep a couple of years ago, “But where am I going to park MY CAR?”

Since “freedom day” I have noticed the same angry driving phenomena that happened after the first lockdown was eased. Cars on the edge, driving too fast, frustrated drivers honking horns in outrage. The sense that MY CAR is king of the road. YOUR CAR is in the way. Vey little of the courtesy that is now common in bus queues. After you…

We had a conversation with a cab driver a couple of years ago – on one of the rare occasions we had to use one. He was furious about the Low Emissions Zone because his vehicle would be caught by it – restricting his range to the outer suburbs unless he could scrap his vehicle and invest in one new enough to meet the standards. He was angry enough to keep turning round to jab his finger at us when we argued with him, swerving around lanes and narrowly missing other cars; at somewhat above the speed limit. His solution was to emigrate to Australia. Australia – of course – is considered second on the list of countries most imminently threatened with ecological collapse. Not on his radar I fear.

There is no shortage of candidates in London who think we can simultaneously develop a greener city while ripping out bike lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods; some who think it a great wheeze to offer free parking and roll back congestion charges and low emissions zones; so we can all sit in traffic jams and breathe in each others exhausts as the population of the city grows and the road network chokes on over use. Still, as they said on Monty Python once “You could easily widen the road there, knock down that hospital”…

Meanwhile, in the park, as I walk cautiously but irreversibly towards the shops, a Brent Council clean up truck swerves past me and stops smartly by the overflowing bin by the playground. The two doors are flung open at once and two blokes jump down with litter pickers and blue bags. The theme from the “A team” starts playing in my head.