Monday 29 April 2013

County Elections - who to vote for. Part 2: The Labour Party

You might expect me to be a fan of Labour, being a native of the Peoples Republic of Gateshead. And I have met some cracking Labour councillors; regrettably I've also met a fair few folk who knew they'd win with a red rosette so did nothing of interest, at all, ever. So I'm quite happy to say that I 'get' Labour, but I also know they've got as many bad candidates across the country as any other party.

So, lets look what they've been saying in response to Cambridge Cycling Campaigns survey this time round.

I met our Kings Hedges labour candidate when she was doing a walk about the ward with some of the City councillors. Fiona Onasanya seems okay, but catching her unaware I got the rather startling answer from her that she's no fan of the 20mph speed limit. It was amusing watching the City councillors she was with hilighting that as its Labour group policy she actually supports it. 

Unlike the Tory candidate in Kings Hedges she did reply to the survey. Which is a good start.

She starts off making the right sounds about cycling infrastructure and pedestrian routes being important, which is easy enough of course. But unfortunately, when we start getting to meaty questions like this one:
Do you support our view that traffic policing, of all groups of road users (cyclists, drivers, etc), should become a greater police priority, and that this should be evidence-based, namely based on the relative levels of danger presented by each such group?
...she simply doesn't answer properly...
Enforcement action by the police is most effective when accompanied by education and other measures to ensure good behaviour by all road users including cyclists and drivers. 
Speeding cars, bad driving and poor behaviour by some cyclists come up on the doorstep quite often and it is important to address concerns expressed and ensure good understanding between different road user groups including pedestrians.
So, I don't get it, does she support the view that policing priority should be evidence based, on relative levels of danger, or not? Because it doesn't look like it. That reads like some wishy-washy fence sitting mutual respect fallacy nonsense. Sorry, thats a big black mark against our Labour candidate right there. Still, plenty of questions left, shall we see if she redeems herself?

The one about whether or not the candidate supports doing things here along the lines that Boris Johnson has got going on in London, thats a good one. And an easy one to answer too. So what does our candidate say?
We support a new Cambridgeshire bike plan, including:-
learning from Dutch towns and country cycling and;
radical thinking, given similar needs (and flat topography) in Cambridgeshire.
So... What? Radical thinking? Doing WHAT? And learning WHAT from Dutch towns? What do you actually want to do? What lessons are there still to learn from the Dutch? Haven't we learned by now, is not the problem one of implementation rather than knowledge? Sorry, thats another cop out answer.

There follow a few more questions to which Fiona Onasanya makes the right kind of noises, frustratingly without ever committing to what she wants done, before dropping a monumental clanger. The question is simple enough, but oozes with righteous anger from the Campaign:
Do you agree that the shared-use paths along Milton Road are in general highly unsatisfactory, and that proper cycling provision should be provided, maintaining priority at sideroads? Do you condemn recent police action to ticket cyclists using pavements on Milton Road that join up with shared-use areas, despite no white lines or clear signs being present to delineate clearly the section where the status changes?
This of course refers to the fact that  Cambridge Police took to staking out the unlabelled end of the cycle route on Milton Road to catch unwary cyclists who had no reason to believe they couldn't ride there, and to councillors outrageous decision to target cyclists who didn't want to face near death like I did. Her answer was:
I feel unable to agree or disagree with the statement that "the shared-use paths are in general highly unsatisfactory" as this is a subjective question and without having specific responses from frequent users (both cyclists and pedestrians) of the paths in question it would not be fair or right to comment. I will however seek more information in respect of police action.
Hang on... Subjective? You've just been talking about Dutch standards, and you must surely know that the Milton Road route doesn't come anywhere near that. You've told us what you want to aspire towards and now when given a crystal clear example that falls miles short its 'subjective'? Are you kidding? It is a major route used to get towards Kings Hedges - if you want to represent the ward you should know it. You're standing for election, and lets be honest we all know you're very likely to win (right now the LibDems are so unpopular that Labour could nominate a gazebo, and it would win) but you're only going to find out about police priorities NOW? That is not good enough. That isn't good enough at all. 

All in all I'm unimpressed. But lets be fair - lets look at another candidate from Labour. I'd go to Arbury but no response from Labour there, so lets go look in East Chesterton to see what the gloriously named Claire Blair has to say. 

Again, she makes the right noises regarding cycle routes, but once again completely bottles it on evidence based policing:
Talking to people frequently on the doorstep speeding cars and poor behaviour by some cyclists come up quite often and it is important to address those concerns. At the same time enforcement action by the police is most effective when it is side by side with education and other measures to promote good behaviour by all road users.
Either copped out again or both candidates I've looked at here utterly failed to understand the question. Neither looks good. She then repeats the same mantra about learning from Dutch towns (so she's way behind the understanding reached in London like the previous candidate is), and while she makes some decent points about the requirement for a new bridge she also fails to get it on policing of Milton Road (saying that shared use facilities are often unsatisfactory without referring to THIS shared use facility... why not?). 

Labour candidates are trying to win cyclists votes by saying things that sound good but are, at best, meaningless. But mostly their answers are evasive, if not downright patronising. It pains me to say it, but if cycling is an issue for you in Cambridge in this election, there is no way you can support Labour. The two example candidates I've picked, if representative, prove that cycling isn't even important enough for them to have learned the issues before replying to the Cycling Campaigns survey. 

Pathetic. Just... pathetic. Labour, you have no plan for cycling here. You have no policies. You have no idea. Wake up and smell the chain lube - you're monumentally failing on this issue, and it pains me.


  1. Labour party in the UK cares not a jot about active transport in any form. It's transport policy is still stuck in trying to woo the "Mondeo man".

  2. Have to agree. The local Labour manifesto plays lip service to the benefits of cycling, without any detail or demonstration that the understand what is required to make a 'high-quality strategic cycle route'.

    And then they complain that the Lib Dems have explicitly put aside money in their alternative budget for cycling. Not sure where the investment was supposed to come from otherwise.

    I'm sure there are good local Labour candidates on cycling, but they have no guidance or drive from the party to address the issue.

  3. Interesting coincidence that two candidates just happened to come up with such strikingly similar sentences: "enforcement action by the police is most effective when it is side by side with education and other measures".

    Doubly so, since it would be little surprise for two people to independently arrive at a demonstrable truth about the world, but for two people to be so identically mistaken is quite curious. What could explain the eerie echo to their authoritative pronouncements of such a clear falsehood?

    1. One could almost see a guiding hand at work. Or just a crib sheet. Yes, quite obvious similarities betweenlabour candidates. Like they're not meant to think for themselves.