Living in the 15-minute city, BREXIT, RIP GB


Living in the 15-minute city, BREXIT, RIP GB

Peter Guest


Hello, sorry that I missed you last month. I was having a cataract operation and couldn’t see too well for a few days. Before that my vision had got to the point where the doc said “no driving until it’s fixed.” And just as I was about to have SWBO measured for a chauffer’s uniform, her doctor found something wrong with her and said she mustn’t drive “until it’s fixed.” 


So, for a few weeks, we got to experience, in a small way, living car free in the 15-minute city. For context, we live about 35 miles from central London in the suburbs. About 15 minutes’ walk to the south is the village center with the basics: a butcher, baker a couple of small supermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants. Some 15 minutes to the north is the town center with larger supermarkets and a wider range of shops. Either can be reached via frequent (10 minute) bus, as can a larger town about 30 minutes away by the same bus. 


What we did was exactly what our parents would have done a generation ago. Instead of filling up my diesel tractor at the hyper market once a week we went shopping every day, buying what we could carry. It worked just fine. Things might cost a few pennies more in the small local shop, but we weren’t paying to run the tractor, so we were probably no worse off. The walking was good, although that would be less attractive when it’s raining. We had to carry what we bought, so choices were more considered, with less impulse buying. All in all, if we all did this maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, certainly not the end of the world as we know it.


I think that when people talk about the need to reduce car use, those who run screaming down the street bug eyed, with flaming torches, missed the operative word: reduce. R.E.D.U.C.E. not stop, but ask yourself the question “Is this necessary, can I do this another way?” because sometimes the answer is “yes,” and a small change might just be a good thing.


Haven’t spoken about BREXIT for a while but my eye was caught by yet another being silly for the sake of being silly Brexitism. When you take your car abroad there is an international agreement which means that the car must have an internationally agreed country plate, a white oval with identifying letters on the back. I believe that yours is USA and for about a millennium ours has been GB. For reasons that are completely opaque to me, some pro Brexit motorists decided to dump GB (Great Britian) in favor of UK for United Kingdom. 


Given that a majority in both Scotland and now Northern Ireland seem to be seeking the dissolution of the union, calling this nation the United Kingdom is double think worthy of Big Brother at his finest. Instead of reinforcing the established legitimate GB, the circus act that we call government opted to follow the rabble and modified all the international agreements to legally replace GB with UK. I am sure that this cost the government millions of dollars. The benefit is….? 


In addition, every British car that crosses into Europe now has to have its GB plate removed and replaced with a UK one at a cost of about $5-10 each time. I have no idea how many UK drivers actually do this trip each year, but it is several million for no obvious benefit. And for everyone that didn’t get the memo, there will be a friendly French gendarme only too willing to explain their breech of international law as they write the citation.


In our proud democracy, every adult citizen, and a fairly significant proportion of those from overseas that legally live here long term, have the right to vote in elections. That is for parliament, municipal elections, and for elected officials like city mayors and police commissioners. They also get to vote in referenda and great matters of the day. Except for Northern Ireland (motto: vote early, vote often), where “personation” has been a long-term problem; you don’t need ID to vote. 


Up to this year there has never been any requirement to identify yourself; turn up at the polling booth, say that you are Fred Smith living at 23 Acacia Avenue and you will be handed the ballot paper. And it worked! There is an agency called the Electoral Commission that is tasked with overseeing elections, and they have never identified widespread systematic fraud. 


In the last decade there have only been eight people caught voting using another name, and in 2019, the last time that we had an election for a new government, there were 595 cases investigated and just four convictions. To counter this wave of criminal activity, the current government introduced a law to require voters to have ID. At least 14,000 legitimate voters were refused a ballot at the polling station as a result. 


Not least of all, according to a committee of MPs, this was because the selection of documents that were accepted was “arbitrary and showed evidence of racial discrimination.” It also disadvantaged those with a disability. The electoral commission’s research suggests that a further 170,000 were unable to even try to vote because they did not have the required documents. A wise judge once said  that it is better that a 100 guilty people go free than one innocent person be convicted. We now seem to be following a different logic.


Looking forward, a government spokesman has said: “The Government has always been confident in the ability of local authorities to implement the voter identification changes whilst continuing to deliver our elections robustly and securely, as they always do.” 


The local authorities who supervise elections are rather less sanguine. They have warned that the extra workload imposed by needing to check everyone’s identity, and the attendant stress when there is a conflict, means that many of the officers who have previously supervised elections are withdrawing. This could mean that they are unable to staff the polling booths at the next election. RIP British democracy.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest, Parking Tales from Big Ben
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