Quite a fuss is being made about speed cameras in Swindon – the local council have decided that they are A Bad Thing, and have decided to ban the ones in their jurisdiction. Now, as it happens, my journey to work takes me through Swindon, or along its fringe at any rate, and it is certainly true that, during my 200 mile trip, it is at Swindon that I come across speed cameras, lots of them. And it affects the way I drive, without any doubt. I slow down.
I say this because, listening to a ‘debate’ on the radio about it – I like listening to phone-ins and mindless talk on long journeys, interspersing sessions of it with forays into the CDs which are most unpopular at home – all I heard was person after person saying that they were a bad thing, a waste of money, an infringement of liberty, and also that they saved lives. This last suggestion was lobbed into the conversation as a sort of trivial extra. I have to say that, if I murder fewer people, it is probably a good thing.
This thing about infringing liberty does astonish me. Some people talk about the existence of speed cameras as if they broke the rules of Magna Carta, composed of course at a time when freemen, serfs, barons, and princelings were bombing along the turnpike roads in proto-Maseratis. It is true that speed cameras only influence driving within a few miles either side (the average speed cameras are of course more of a deterrent). But if the corpse-count is down, surely that’s a good thing? What next, an end to the seatbelt? The breathalyser?
What I suspect is that this Swindon ploy (which will play well with the punters) is part of a larger backlash against Labour having been in power so long. Anything which Jeremy Clarkson thinks is a bad thing, as he does with speed cameras, is de facto a good thing. One of the arguments I heard used on the radio was that, when you’re on a motorway, and cars suddenly slow down for speed cameras, then that is a very dangerous thing for the cars which are following. It is if the cars following are driving too fast. I do hope (against hope) that the election fever isn’t going to start a whole lot more hares like this. Inheritance tax is another new target – it may well be true that the level at which it is set needs revising, but banning it (as my neighbour’s car sticker suggests)? Marx may have been wrong about some things, but the redistribution of wealth isn’t one of them.
Swindon’s (Labour) MP supported the speed cameras. End of a parliamentary career in store, I guess. I hope Swindon Council publishes a tally of those unfortunates who are mown down in the next few months.