Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: John Prescott

Earlier this month, I wrote a column for The Sunday Times in which I might perhaps have said motorcyclists were a tiny bit gay. Certainly I claimed that they liked to look at photographs of other men's bottoms.

Well, there's been an awful lot of fuss and bother with e-mails flying hither and thither, flicked V-signs in traffic jams and a piece in Motorcycle News which said I was being deliberately controversial. As opposed to what, I wondered? Accidentally controversial?

It also said that I only wrote the column to annoy the Road Test Editor of Top Gear magazine. "A tad wasteful", they suggested, to devote an entire column in a national organ to one man.

Oh really? Well they devoted a whole column to me, and now I'm going to devote what's left of this one to John Prescott, who has a brilliant new wheeze. Basically, if Railtrack don't get the trains to run on time, they'll be fined £40 million. Which is more than you get for urinating in a public place.

I find myself wondering what good this will possibly do. Certainly, it'll ensure that money, which could be spent making the network better, goes to the government, where it will be spent on a few more focus groups. And big penalties like this will scare away investors. So, the trains will get worse. And then they'll get fined again.

I wouldn't mind, but it's not like the people at Railtrack sit around every morning thinking up new and exciting ways to bugger up the network. I'm sure they're doing their best and the last thing they want is Jabba the Hutt and his ginger-haired, rhubard-shaped sidekick at the Rail Regulator acting like a brace of school bullies.

I should have thought it would have been more helpful if Taffy Two Jags had said: ‘Look, if you can't do anything to make the trains better, we'll give you £40 million to spend on new signals or better coffee or something.'

But oh no. Chopper Prescott has decided to spend all his money on another lunch. And a diving holiday in the Maldives. And a helicopter to get to the grand prix where he cheered wildly for someone called "Damien". And what little there is left over, is being spent on turning the road network into a giant f****** bus lane.

"He doesn’t seem to understand that no-one will buy a car, tax it, insure it, pay to park it somewhere and then use the bus to go to work"

Now look. Trains are a good idea. They help alleviate the pressure on Britain's roads and work well in tandem with the car and truck. Buses don't. Buses are stupid.

With the power of hindsight, everyone can see that Beeching was wrong to rip up the railways in 1963. It may have seemed like a wise move at the time, what with the coming of the car, but now, we can all see it was madness. And I will bet everything I own that in 30 years' time, we'll all be sitting around saying: "Prescott was an arse when he made all the roads buses-only."

Actually, I'm saying it now. It's all very well claiming that each bus is full of 50 smiling motorists who've left their cars at home, but that's simply not the case. If you look at a bus after, say, ten o'clock in the morning, it is almost always empty. And if there is someone on it, you can just tell they've never owned a car in their lives - not with that hair-do. And that coat.

Prescott doesn't seem to understand that no-one will buy a car, tax it, insure it, pay to park it somewhere and then use the bus to go to work. But then we should remember that he failed his 11-plus and was described by his mother as "not very bright".

But even he, surely, can see that a car is far more comfortable and far more convenient than a bus. A car goes where you want it to go and comes home when you're good and ready. A car offers you peace and Terry Wogan. A bus offers you nothing more exciting than the opportunity to sit on someone else's discarded chewing gum.

And buses are not fast. All the coach operators who use it say the new M4 bus lane has made no discernible difference to their journey times. And one operator, in Reading, even cut services after it was opened because there was "insufficient demand".

Only 50 buses an hour use the M4 between Heathrow and London - that's less than one a minute - and they now have a lane all to themselves. While the 16,000 cars that use the same stretch are hemmed into the remainder. It's idiotic. It's insane. It's the product of a damaged mind.

And it gets worse because a quick survey of the 50 buses using the new lane reveals a nasty surprise. Most are airline coaches ferrying flight crews into central London for a little light sex.

And then we have the 350 taxis. Well that's really helping the road network and its overtaxed users. Sitting there watching American businessmen whizz past you into town at 50mph while you just sit there and sweat.

History, I assure you, will not be kind to Mr Prescott and I suggest that history starts right now. So drop him a line, explaining exactly why next time round, you'll be voting for... well anyone really, just so long as he goes back to serving gin and tonics on the QE2.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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