A couple of weeks ago, I had my terse letter published in a local newspaper. Today, the public outcry began. Loyal blog readers, do I raise the stakes and respond? It’s up to you.
Disappointingly, the response is not from either of the two people I attacked directly, as I’m sure their replies would include more personal invective against me. Instead, it comes from a Mr D F Holdsworth of Offord Cluny.
Now, Mr H makes a strong start by describing me as ‘wrong’. I think we can all agree this is not a fact that is up for dispute. If he had stopped his letter after the fourth word in fact, I’d have had to tip my hat and concede. Sadly after that things go a little downhill. (And by the way, I didn’t say toll roads are a good thing. But whatever).
Nobody is interested in having a debate about the rights and wrong of fiscal choice architecture here, so I’m not going to argue the toss about the fourth tax thing. Except perhaps to say that the ‘road fund licence‘ hasn’t been called that since 1936, which perhaps gives us the measure of Mr H.
His toll bridges argument does trouble me slightly. My understanding is that Mr H, the old card, is quite happy to levy punitive charges on people only when they have no alternative but to pay them. That seems a little unfair to me. But that’s meat and drink compared to the wonderful, fist-pumping assertions in paragraph three. In my letter, I blathered on about looking at real European data to inform the debate. So old Mr H peered over the dashboard of his Austin Metro, and what did he see? Curse those French taking their smelly Citroens through the back routes! Even if this alleged miserable, Gallic, four-decade policy failure was borne out by *any actual numbers*, there are at least 37 other countries that use toll roads. Some of them, I understand, have been quite successful in enabling major new infrastructure to be built. Even the Italians pay tolls, and this in a country where taxes are generally viewed as an opt-in citizenship scheme.
Still, Mr H paints a picture doesn’t he?
But we’ve not got to the money shot yet. The answer to all the A14 toll road problems. And in hindsight, it’s obvious.
Why spend £1.5 billion on foreign aid, when we could instead spaff it on allowing Eddie Stobart to get between Northampton and Cromer almost nineteen minutes faster? Why spend it on providing 19.6 million people with access to water and sanitation, 3.8 million with rights to property or land and 1.6 million with a childbirth attended by a doctor or nurse (all DFID figures), when you could spend it on five miles of six-lane road in one of the richest areas of the world’s seventh largest economy?
I fart at thee, D F Holdsworth, you desipicable, small-minded bastard, and on everything you stand for.
So, should I write back?