Are all parties scared of the motoring lobby?

Are all parties scared of the motoring lobby?

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    How can green agendas be pursued in the face of onslaughts like this?

The News of the world is running a big feature today, part of which is reproduced here, launching a campaign on motoring taxation. This follows a week which has seen the Downing Street website petition on road pricing attract more than a million supporters and comes on the eve of a massive extension of London’s congestion charging zone.

The question that all parties have to face is how much they can back measures to tackle congestion and green taxation when faced with reactions like this. For Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems have all been forthright in their rhetoric over global warming – but how politically can they do anything about it?

    Labour and Gordon Brown still bear scars from the September 2000 fuel crisis when for a day or so the country looked as though it was being brought to a standstill. The then green tax policy on petrol was diluted however much Gordon tried to dress it up.

Even now whenever we look back at historical opinion polls we always have to make a special exception over what happened during that month when Hague’s Tories went into the lead.

As we saw seven years this is an issue that can take everybody unaware and shows the limits of what is possible when ordinary people feel that their freedom to drive their cars is threatened in any way.

In the short-term, as the News of the World vividly shows this morning, it’s the Government of the day that is most vulnerable yet this is a very hard one for either the Tories or Liberal Democrats to make capital from. “Speaking up for the motorist” might be good for the red-tops but would just look like opportunism from the now Jaguar-less Ming and the cycling Tory leader, David Cameron, with his chauffeur following on behind.

One approach is not to knock motorists in general but to focus on a few like the Lib Dem Council move in the London borough of Richmond to levy higher residents’ parking charges on owners of “gas-guzzlers”.

Whatever the extent to which motoring can be constrained could have an impact on the general election if one of the parties manages to get it right.

Mike Smithson

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