February 26th, 2007

Road pricing politics – the art of listening and counting

The politics of the now-closed road pricing petition have been terrible for the environment and quality of life, with 1.8 million people given a space to vent mob rage and duck difficult choices. Progress will slow, unjustified concessions will be made, and hesitation and equivocation will be the order of the day – at least that is the impression left by the PM’s e-mail response to the petition.

I’ve already gone through the arguments about this sorry saga in No 10 road pricing petition, beware what you wish for… so I wont repeat that here… But I did wonder how the counter petitions were doing. There are probably two that are worth looking at: at 8.30pm 26 Feb, this was the position…

  1. We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Introduce road pricing nationwide and channel the money into improving public transport and conditions for walking and cycling. Submitted by Greg King – Deadline to sign up by: 07 November 2007 – Signatures: 2,250
  2. We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Don’t Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy. Submitted by Tim Lewis – Deadline to sign up by: 11 March 2007 – Signatures: 4,384

Er, not that well then. I wonder why the environment groups haven’t mobilised their supporters-base? You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to get enough signatures aligned with a soundly-worded petition to get a self-sustaining reaction underway. What signal does the relative silence and tiny response send to ministers, who are always being asked to take difficult decisions for the environment?

As Tom Burke says, the two skills needed for political influencing are listening and counting. Anyone listening and counting on road pricing would not be rushing in to road pricing.

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