Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: Tony Blair

Satellite navigation will soon become a standard feature in all new cars and some of you may be very happy with that. Me? Well I'm not so sure.

Here's why. Your car will be receiving information from satellites, so how long will it be before it starts to receive instructions? How long before it's restrained from doing more than 70 on a motorway or 40 in the suburbs?

You might think that this is all some kind of pie in the sky dream that could become available, one day, perhaps some time in the new millennium. But I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it squeak into reality before this one is over, 13 months from now.

The impact would be colossal. Think. If you were suddenly unable to break speed limits, there would be absolutely no point, at all, in buying a car with a large engine. And please don't talk to me about track days or big torque making for relaxed driving, because that's nonsense. If you could never go faster than 70, you wouldn't even think about a 1.6, leave alone a supercharged 12. You'd buy a bloody Yaris.

No, worse; you'd buy a hybrid, a half petrol/half battery-powered obscenity with smooth rear wheelarches and an electronic Prescott under the rear parcel shelf, charging you £4,000 for moving and £4,000 every time you stop.

That's coming too, you know. It doesn't matter how many times the RAC say motorists are up in arms, and it certainly doesn't matter how many pages I manage to fill with pro-car news, Phoney Tony has a 170-seat majority, so he can do whatever he damn well wants. And what he wants is to hang you up and bleed you dry.

He wants empty streets for his new baby to play in, and to get them he's going to impose legislation that'll make the tax disc of today seem about as costly as a penny chew. The technology already exists. Each car will be fitted with a black box, and every time you drive onto a motorway or into a town centre, your credit card will be debited.

There will be automatic debits for law breakers too. Obviously you won't be able to speed, but anyone who jumps a red light will have £50 deducted from their pay at source. We already have this for absentee fathers, and forget the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty. You're a motorist, and that makes you as guilty as hell.

A few classic car magazines will survive but Top Gear will be an early casualty. Along with all the lads' mags. These promote a lifestyle not in accord with the teachings of the Blair Witch Project and, bit by bit, their Editors will be made to see the error of their ways.

“Phoney Tony can do whatever he damn well wants. And what he wants is to hang you up and bleed you dry”

This is already happening. A government think-tank, made up of no-hoper housewives in ill-fitting trouser suits decided this month that the time has come to nail some sense into motoring programmes that promote speed. Pretty soon now, James Bond will be on the sparkling mineral water. And she'll not be allowed a car, either.

You probably think that if this were to come to pass, there would be riots in the streets and burning effigies of Prescott lighting the night sky. But look what's happened already. They've put speed mountains on every back street in the land and no-one has done a thing about it. And every time they slide a bus lane down an already congested street, there's a chorus of silence.

They do nothing to bring down car prices, which has only managed to inflame the Consumers' Association - a body with as many teeth as the Padstow Tufty Club. Performance motoring is doomed, and we're all remaining silent.

This is because we don't have a single leg to stand on. They only need wheel out the bereaved parents of a four-year--old girl who's been killed by someone doing 50 in a 30, and there's not a damn thing you can say. Not a thing.

You may say that we'll behave in built-up areas if they leave us alone on derestricted normal roads, but this time, they wheel out the kids of a man who was killed when two nutcases in a brace of 911s ran out of talent at a critical moment. And again, you're stumped.

They have a way of dealing with us, even now. When we turn up in a bespoilered GTR or Evo 6, they smile the smile of someone who has the moral high ground and one day will win.

This is a promise. In 15 years, you won't be able to buy a performance car in Britain. Ferrari will survive making art forms for people's garages, but the days of fire-spitting Subarus and hot Pugs are numbered. Mr Blair is going to win the next election and, with or without European help, he'll make fast driving about as acceptable as rape.

And there is nothing you or I can do to stop it, so I suggest that very early tomorrow morning, you head for the Buttertubs Pass in Yorkshire. Drive it hard and fast, concentrating until your back and armpits are flowing like Niagara. Scare yourself, because that thrill, that sense of being over the edge, that moment when you've never felt so alive: soon, it will be a thing of the past.

Welcome to the world of Johnny Cabs. No need to fasten your seatbelts. We'll never be going fast enough.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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