Friday, 20 February 2009

Easing congestion

Breakfast with Boris Johnson today in my usual haunt - McDonald's in County Hall. Great place for networking as a number of MPs use it. I have often seen Ann Widdecombe tucking into a bacon and egg mcmuffin while James swears by the hash browns. A big breakfast is necessary as I am feeling a bit tender headed after drinking buckets of absolute filth at the NCVO dinner following the conference.

Anyway, back to Boris. Bold, brash, opinionated, scruffy. I am sure these are just some of the things he is thinking about me as we chat. As well as trying to gain some insight into his mayoral vision for the London umbrella sector I am seeking reassurance on his plans for congestion charging.

I am a big fan of Ken and can think of no greater raconteur and political personality. But his obsession with congestion charging posed a very serious threat to the umbrella owning Londoner. Yes, I accept Ken's point that some of the main London shopping streets on a rainy day have become extremely dangerous as shoppers scurry along, umbrella pulled down tight over their head, with no due regard for the health and eyesight of fellow shoppers.

But I feel that the answer is to educate umbrella carriers on the risks of selfish brolly carrying and not the imposition of a tax on carrying an umbrella in designated London streets while the shops are open. When you consider that Ken wanted to charge an even higher tax for those carrying large family sized umbrellas (the so called Chelsea Gampster) you can see that while it would have led to a very nice pot of cash for the mayor's office, umbrella users would be shelling out hard earned cash just for the right to stay dry while shopping and would ultimately have had to make the decision about whether it was even worth taking an umbrella shopping at all.

Boris, thankfully, agrees with me and I receive floppy haired assurance that he will not press ahead with the plans. I head back to the office pleased that my influence with politicians has once again yielded a positive result for my members.

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