RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: What, more cycle lanes? On yer bike!

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: What, more cycle lanes? On yer bike!

  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Let’s hear it for White Van Man. And Black Van Man, and every other shade of van man and woman.

Where the hell would we have been without them over the past few weeks?

Locked down in our homes, millions of us have come to rely on regular deliveries of food, drink and other essentials.

NHS frontline staff have risen magnificently to the coronavirus challenge. But so, too, have the unsung heroes of Britain’s distribution network.

It isn’t just the giant Amazons and Ocados who have kept supplies of vital provisions flowing. In tandem with hundreds of independent retailers, greengrocers, butchers and bakers, parcel firms have performed beyond the call of duty.

Despite the fine work of delivery drivers during the lockdown, the government has approved plans to increase bike lanes in the capital

Often, these are one-man bands who have hired a van for the duration and are driving all the hours God sends. I’ve been astonished and hugely impressed by the way in which we have been able to order fresh fish from Whitby and cases of wine from West London and find it on our doorstep the following day. In most cases, they’ll even text you a one-hour time slot.

Compare the efficiency of the private sector with the pig’s ear Public Health England and NHS Procurement have made of PPE provision and distribution.

But this isn’t another carp about the inept shortcomings of health service bureaucracy. It’s a heartfelt vote of thanks to all those who have kept the economy ticking over since March.

White Van Man has also helped keep us safe, sparing those of us considered even marginally ‘vulnerable’ from having to brave the supermarket scrum.

And how is government going to reward them for their dedication and hard work? By giving them a road tax holiday, or knocking a few bob off the price of diesel?

Nope. Both national and local government plan to make their lives miserable and their job even more difficult. With the full support of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London has announced proposals to carpet our capital city with more cycle lanes.

Delivery vans and workers have kept the UK on its feet with everybody staying indoors

Other towns and cities are intending to follow suit, banning vehicles from entering, widening pavements and building more exclusive bus and bike routes.

You may have noticed that in the past couple of weeks traffic jams have been reappearing. That’s not because traffic has returned to pre-crisis levels.

It’s because road space for cars and commercial vehicles has been deliberately reduced, in the process engineering unnecessary congestion and air pollution — the very thing ‘green’ policies are supposed to combat. Never mind the fact that while coronavirus lingers, the safest way to travel is in your own vehicle.

When the lockdown is lifted, we’re going to need our cars, vans and lorries to get the economy moving again. How on earth otherwise are tradesmen supposed to get to work? Do we intend to force plumbers to pedal from site to site with a boiler strapped to their backs and half a dozen radiators under their arms?

Are scaffolders supposed to hump their gear onto Tube trains, while simultaneously observing strict social distancing regulations? Just imagine trying to negotiate the escalator at Oxford Circus station with a 36ft steel pole slung over your shoulder.

Left hand down a bit. Mind the gap! Perhaps piano shifters could try getting a baby grand across town on a No. 9 bus.

Right said Fred.

What about those van drivers delivering to homes and keeping supermarket shelves stocked?

Green gimmickry is a luxury we can’t afford if we’re going to recover the tens of billions of pounds already lost to the virus. Far from frittering away a fortune on ever more draconian anti-car schemes, we should be embarking on a massive programme of scrapping bike and bus lanes, digging up road humps and reprogramming traffic lights.

We won’t be able to rely on public transport for the forseeable future. Bus and train capacity will remain severely restricted, and the unions are already exploiting the crisis to screw concessions out of Transport for London and other operators. Boris is trying to kid us that we are entering a ‘golden age of cycling’. In his dreams.

He might just as well call for the return of penny-farthings and order a fleet of circus-style unicycles. Perhaps we could bring back ox-carts and horse-drawn stagecoaches.

Turning Britain into an Extinction Rebellion Fantasy Island would be economic suicide.

Yes, in a perfect world, we’d all whizz around on high-speed, spotless, solar-powered, air-conditioned public transport.

Our petrol and diesel cars would be replaced by state-of-the-art electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. But that ain’t gonna happen any time soon. The technology isn’t ready yet. The country is skint. Government debt is at astronomical levels.

The only way out of this mess is through taxes generated by a booming economy. That depends on those of us who have been shopping on the internet during lockdown continuing to spend, spend, spend.

It is unrealistic to expect a revival of traditional retailing. Big household names have collapsed and others are on the brink of bankruptcy. Coronavirus will likely sound the death knell for what remains of the High Street.

Hopefully, we will continue to support the family firms and convenience stores who have kept us afloat through this crisis.

But, inevitably, the lion’s share of our spending in future is going to be online. And that means we will need more home deliveries, not fewer.

If we are to extract ourselves from the economic black hole dug for us by Covid-19, White Van Man will have to be, er, in the van.

Prof Lockdown’s main squeeze

There hasn’t been much to laugh about lately, so the news that Professor Neil Ferguson has been breaking his own lockdown for a bit of non-essential naughties with his German mistress was a godsend. Antonia Staats brings a whole new meaning to the expression ‘super spreader’.

She’s straight from central casting, describing herself as as ‘sustainability educator’, whatever that is. Her worldview is bog-standard Leftie — anti-Brexit, anti-Boris, anti-Murdoch newspapers, big on greenery.

But not mad keen on social distancing, apparently, despite her activist group running an online campaign urging everyone else to ‘stay at home’. These kind of people never think the normal rules apply to them.

Professor Neil Ferguson found himself in hot water after breaking the lockdown rules he advised in order to see his German mistress

Ferguson has lost his job as a Government scientist, but I’m glad the police aren’t taking any action against him.

He’s added hugely to the gaeity of the nation. His frisky fraulein looks like a Bavarian milkmaid. She could have served as a body double for a pre-diet Adele. They met on a dating site called OkCupid. Is that like OK Boomer, only for younger people?

Apparently, she hot-footed it from Clapham to Ferguson’s place across London, and may even have been sharing his bed while he was talking live to the BBC’s Today programme about the need for the rest of us to stay indoors and avoid contact. Pity the interview was on the phone, not Zoom.

So farewell then, Professor Lockdown. He never thought it would happen with the girl from Clapham.

But now he’s really Up The Junction.

The virus means no more mwah, mwah air kissing, no more man hugs, no more shaking hands.

A handshake was once a preferred way of doing business, especially in the City. But even back in the Eighties, there were cultural variations. Here’s Minder’s Cheerful Charlie Chisholm being introduced by Arthur to an Indian entrepreneur. 

I’m told the Department of Health is thinking of using this clip to demonstrate the approved new method of greeting . . . Namaste!

Source: Read Full Article