Mervyn Bowden: Guest Blog – Are we now ungovernable?
The slippery slope
There’s been an ongoing trend over many decades, accelerated by Blair and his hapless heirs, towards a complete dismantling of the traditional UK Establishment.
This has coincided with the political class completely losing credibility with their electorate, which has in turn tired of the dishonesty, willful ignorance, spin and selfish focus on their own personal interests of their supposed political representatives.
At the same time, the populace now has the ability to scrutinise, criticise and comment on every aspect of politicians and their actions to the extent that the whole process of legislating has become fraught with massive complexities.
As always there’s a hint of “tongue in cheek” but it’s worth pondering on some of the more serious aspects as they’re growing in profile.
They said what?
Does anyone believe government statistics of any kind as they rarely appear to paint a true picture? Witness many of the ridiculous projections and predictions from all sides around the EU referendum!
In losing faith in politicians the public have developed a very cynical view of legislation, often to the point where they selectively only abide by laws which they agree with when it suits them.
There are many examples of laws which are largely ignored (because the public appear to disagree with them; there are insufficient penalties for breaches; there is ineffective enforcement; in some cases they’re just poorly conceived) and simple but important laws – like not using a mobile phone whilst driving, for one example, have demonstrated this very clearly.
So what about the data?
Lofty claims are made by governments around environmental issues but if large sections of the population decide to ignore or only comply with regulations they agree with, the targets won’t be achieved quite as planned.
Take a simple measure like speed limits on roads. Limits tend to be in place not only for safety reasons but also as a way of managing fuel consumption. Whilst the UK has limits of up to 70mph, other countries and states vary. I’ve just returned from Canada where vast areas of a vast country are limited to 62mph.
How do they cope with it? Simple answer is, they don’t! If you drive at 62mph in the overtaking lane you’ll soon have a queue of irate motorists on your rear bumper. Seriously large numbers of people exceed speed limits with little sign of enforcement.
Similarly in the UK, at 70mph on motorways you’ll be constantly overtaken as you will in the US.
The result? Most cars use around 17% more fuel at 70mph than at 55mph and this figure climbs to 28% more at 80mph. Compare that with the Germans and their unlimited autobahns.
Making vehicles more efficient doesn’t necessarily alter the driver’s attitude!
In 2013, there were 29m cars on the roads in the UK and there are more every year – at an average of 12,000 miles a year the potential fuel carbon savings are staggering.
The plain fact is the population is unlikely to accept restriction to 55, 60, 65 as they already largely ignore the 70 limit. So it’s probably more about how long the fuels involved will last.
Between a rock and a hard place?
A fine balance to be sure but this is one of many topical issues which require a brave and strong government, along with a robust mandate, to produce laws which achieve major improvements despite apathy, on the one hand and aggressive challenge, at the other.
Governments are unable to effectively deal with the degree of constitutional change which is now needed to put things right. Turkeys tend not to vote for Christmas.
Being “ungovernable” seems to be an increasing trend – who will put it right and how are major questions for the near future as the problems will not be self-healing and neither will they go away!
Mervyn Bowden is the MD of Intuitive Energy Solutions.