Anorak News | Living With Ken

Living With Ken

by | 6th, July 2005

‘“WHERE does the air come from, daddy?” asks the boy flying his kite on London’s Parliament Hill. “Why, from the exhaust fumes, of course.”

Dad then goes onto explain that all vehicles, from the lowly pizza delivery mopeds to the coaches laden with German tourists on their way to forming a wagon train round Hyde Park, produce London air.

This air is clearly visible from the high point atop Hampstead Heath, a place that must always be referred to in any article about London as the “lungs” of the capital.

There are more awful places to be in London than in its lungs – or offal places if we’re sticking with the idea of London existing as a collection of body parts linked by clogged arteries.

But you don’t have to be Bill Giles or a prince with a geography degree to know that the most terrible place in London must be anywhere Ken Livingstone is.

Most often this is Cricklewood or that lopsided pillbox called City Hall on the Thames.

As such, it should be easy to avoid these places and so escape catching a dose of Ken – a horrible affliction leading to a narrowing of the sinuses and an irritating all-over dryness.

But it isn’t, because Ken wants us to experience him, even when we can’t see him. Listen up as he tells Londoners to stop flushing the toilet when they have a wee.

Ken understands the need to conserve water, as any newt fancier should, and that means not using a hosepipe to water your garden or wash your car and not flushing the loo.

As Ken told a press conference, “don’t flush the lavatory if you have just had a pee”.

Fair enough. But what do you do instead? Should you wait a while until some of our urine has evaporated into the yellowy atmosphere? Or pour it into pint glass and recycle it as many London pubs seem to?

“I want Londoners to make small changes to save water without affecting the quality of life,” says Ken.

And, presumably, this includes using water in your car radiators. Not that you should ever use your car in Ken’s London. To put you off driving in town, Ken’s just raised the cost of his congestion charge by £3 a day to £8.

Now the only people who can drive into London – and then pump money into parking meters in the manner of an OAP in a fright wig and indoor sunglasses sitting at a Las Vegas slot machine – are those who employ the effervescent cleaning properties of Perrier in their car’s windscreen washers.

As Livingstone puts it: “It all helps. Of course, it’s useful to have an income.”

He’s not kidding. Having stated in November 2003 that congestion charging was “not about raising money”, the charge has raised lots of the stuff. Last year it raised £72 million…in fines.

The extra £3 a day will, according to Transport for London estimates, swell the mayor’s coffers by £35-45 million a year.

“So what?” say supporters of congestion charging. There is 18 per cent less traffic within the congestion zone than there was when the scheme was introduced in February 2003.

And if that means 18 per cent less boys carrying buckets of their wee around – something Ken would doubtless approve of – and offering to wash your car windows in it, it’s hard not to see some value in the plan.

But placing a toll on the roads just means the rich have more space to drive, while the poor are forced to make do on the hellish Tube system or fight their way onto an overcrowded bus.

Which is called public transport, and, for environmentally-friendly reasons, contains no air whatsoever and stinks of unflushed piss…


Paul Sorene’

Posted: 6th, July 2005 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink