Jeremy Clarkson

jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: John Prescott

Last weekend, and for the first time in years, I found myself in church. And I have to say that not once, not even in an Audi press conference, have I ever been subjected to such a mountain of nonsense. People who write hymns praising the Lord seem to forget that if He created everything, then He must be responsible for war, famine and caravans.

And then you have the psalms. They tell us that the cornerstone of Christianity is forgiveness, but will the vicar marry you in a church if you've been divorced? Not a chance, matey.

I stumbled into the sunshine after an hour and thought that no-one would ever beat Hector the Rector in the mumbo jumbo stakes. But I was reckoning without John Prescott.

To be honest, I don't mind the Church. If a bunch of people in hats wants to have a sing-song on a Sunday morning, that's fine. And anyway, selling jam is pretty harmless.

Prescott, however, is not harmless at all. I've made no secret in the past that I loathe new Labour. The idea that people could join a party which stood for one thing and then, in the quest for power, completely change their minds, is utterly abhorrent.

But it worked and now Prescott is lording it about, saying he wants to see the end of the two car family. He thinks that the day will come when buses and trains provide such a regular, clean and reliable alternative that there is simply no need for that secondary set of wheels.

Well, now look fatty; we laugh at the attempts of Canute to stop something as trivial as the tide, yet we take seriously a man who is trying to halt the advance of technology. People stopped using horses when steam power was invented, and people stopped using steam when internal combustion took over. The train was a good idea but for about a billion reasons, all of which are patently obvious, the car has superseded it.

"We're being manipulated - told that things are horrific and getting worse so that we will swallow increased costs without complaining"

Last month, one of the newly privatised rail companies asked if I'd front an advertising campaign boasting that 90 per cent of their services arrived on time. Wow. This means that if you commute to and from work, the train will only be late one day a week. Not even Land Rover crows about how its cars only break down once a week, even though a lot of them do.

Now I'm not daft. Trains are needed for getting people into London during rush hour - but for going to the shops, taking the kids to school, popping out to see Granny or any other damn thing, the car leaves public transport standing.

They counter this by saying that in the next 20 years, traffic levels will grow by 57 per cent and that the country will grind to a halt. But this is drivel. There are 25 million motorists in Britain and 22 million vehicles, which means we're already close to saturation point. Traffic will only grow by 57 per cent if people devise a way to drive two cars at once.

The fact of the matter is that things right now are as bad as they'll ever be, and to be honest, they're not that bad. Sure, the M6 north of Birmingham jams up a lot, the M25 is always busy, and on a Bank Holiday Monday the M5 slows up a lot. But I hardly think this is a good reason to sell your car and move into a bus shelter.

We're being manipulated - told that things are horrific and getting worse so that we will swallow increased costs without complaining. When they introduce road tolls, we'll be told it's for our own good.

And it just isn't. If you put £20 worth of fuel in your car, £16 goes to the government. Then there's VAT on the car itself, and tax on the insurance premium and tax on servicing, and that doesn't count the £145 vehicle excise duty. Every year, motorists give the government £25 billion. And they want us to pay tolls? Well they can f*** off.

At times like this, I like to call on the services of an imaginary Martian who has beamed down to assess the situation in a balanced way. He, I know, would say that the problem could be solved forever if we had just a few more roads - and that the £25 billion we give the government every year is easily enough to pay for them, with enough change left over to make the roof on the Greenwich Dome from solid gold n

FOOTNOTE - In the interests of balance, I'd like to make it plain that I hate all politicians with equal vigour.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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