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Ban the Lib Dems

Date: 03 October 2007

Guy Bird is our editor-at-large and political columnist

The UK's third political party want rid of the petrol engine by 2040 - I've got a better idea, let's disband them instead for polluting the air with such nonsense, writes Guy Bird

Ah, conference season. A time when the UK's political parties go to the coast to let the sea air mess with their heads.

My favourite car-related soundbite so far is from the Lib Dems' shadow transport secretary Susan Kramer's speech at Brighton last month: "Our goal is zero emissions for cars by 2040. That means the end of the petrol engine".

Come again? I'm no evangelist for any old petrol engine. You won't catch me chuckling like a big kid while some good ol' boy needlessly revs up a lazy V8 automatic tucked under his bungalow-sized US pick-up truck. But if I was a representative for the Association of Small-displacement Perky Petrol Units (ASPPU) whose members include some of the cleanest sub-120g/km city cars in the business (the new Smart, Mitsubishi i anyone?), I might be more than offended.

Even rhino-skinned Ken Livingstone is now proposing to base his future congestion charge-related 'carrots and sticks' on emission levels rather than specific technology types. The stupidity of Ken's existing tech-specific system being superbly illustrated by the large Lexus RX400h SUV roaming free within the central London zone due to its hybrid status while far lower emission small petrol- or diesel-engined cars pay full whack.

“Even rhino-skinned Ken Livingstone is now proposing to base his future congestion charge-related 'carrots and sticks' on emission levels rather than specific technology types.”

Guy Bird

A quick call to a policy advisor at Lib Dem HQ reveals they are also in favour of targeting emissions rather than bashing specific technology. The advisor explains that the party's 'Zero Carbon' policy paper states as much, blaming the anti-petrol reports on "the papers". Yet Kramer's quote is direct from her speech as distributed by the Lib Dems' own press campaign.

Kramer doesn't mention whether the diesel engine is also on her hit list or whether she knows the difference between the two, but be warned: the throwaway nature of her comments and daft soundbite say a lot about her lack of knowledge on the subject. Hell, by 2040 the petrol engine will be close to emission-less, given what can be achieved today, or replaced for a more modern powertrain anyway.

In the same speech, Kramer, who used to serve on the board of Transport for London, heaped praise on the Liberal Democrat Richmond Council for its daft CO2-related parking charges and talked of hiking VED up to £2000 for the worst offenders. You know where you stand if you vote Lib Dem. At least she belongs to a party that will never be elected. Phew!

The irony is, all that conference activity and campaigning will be racking up the miles and emissions. So here's an idea. Rather than wait for the petrol engine to disappear in 2040, maybe the quickest way for the Lib Dems to help the world go carbon neutral is for them to cease to exist. And if the party won't fall on its own sword voluntarily maybe someone should go and ban it.