Santa, Public Transport and a fold-up battery powered bike

20 Years ago, I was in the final months of running and developing the JumpStart Project for the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council before I moved over to Shire Hall at the beginning of the following February.

I’d been with GRCC for a couple of years and really enjoyed developing new services for a Charity project operating around the rural Districts of Gloucestershire that helped unemployed people who were trying to access jobs or training and couldn’t get there because they didn’t have any transport.

We were already lending out mopeds and bicycles, as well as buying people their first weekly bus ticket or just opening another door to someone else who might be able to help them.

I was looking for creative ways to provide more options for the people we were helping, that would also encourage the local Councils and our existing partners to keep supporting us by experiencing even better results.

One day, I saw an editorial for what may have been the first or certainly one of the very first companies to start importing battery powered bikes into the UK at the time. You may not believe it, but sustainability was already a big thing outside of the mainstream and I quickly concluded that these bikes were just the thing that we needed and really would provide a win-win.

The funders I approached agreed with me too. In fact, our main partner on this new offering was the local Rural Transport Partnership who had recently taken on a PR guy called Stuart Bexon, who I still suspect had got lost on his way somewhere else and thought he’d just have six months out whilst he was here and see if he could humour the public sector in some way.

When I met Stuart for the first time to talk about the funding we’d just won, we hit it off in comical style and it felt like a meeting of caper-driven minds and a bit of a coming home.

Very keen to make the best of the opportunity for publicity that we realised we had; we bantered our way through one of the funniest brainstorms you could imagine.

Armed with the sense that we had been tasked to promote the concept of integrated transport in its most literal form, we soon concluded that the best way to do so would be to take a fold-up battery powered bike around the whole of Gloucestershire’s Public Transport network – with yours truly dressed as Santa Clause.

Over three days in mid-December 2001 using the borrowed Toyota Prius ‘support car’ that Stuart had blagged from Bill Allen Toyota – the Cheltenham Toyota Dealer at the time, we set about delivering on our ridiculous – but very successful plan.

The local media absolutely loved it. Wherever we ended up or passed through, a reporter or journalist wasn’t very far away and the picture here that I borrowed from the Countryside Agency Publication ‘Two Wheels Work’ was taken on Cheltenham Promenade shortly after we ended what I believe was the final day at the front door of John Dower House – which was the base of the CA at the time.

I think my only (possible) regret was the look of bewilderment on the face of a very young child when they got on to the bus to Cirencester at the next stop after we started in Tetbury and sat opposite Santa for the whole journey. It was quite clear they were wondering where the hell the Reindeer and Sleigh had gone and why Santa had turned up early riding on the same bus with his giant arm draped over a fold-up bike!!!


The morning after, it’s the same May as before


As will be the case with many others who see their politics being most closely aligned to conservative thinking, today, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Being a lapsed Tory in the most literal sense, there is something profoundly de ja vu about the fact that some five years after my own departure, the destructive blindness caused by nothing more than self-interest and ambition on the part of Conservative Politicians is not only alive, but in breathtakingly rude health.

Watching or rather reading all the glad-handing going on this morning following Theresa May’s Confidence Vote, one can only wonder what it will really take so many of our Conservative MP’s to wake up to the reality that in so far as delivering Brexit is concerned, by endorsing the May tragedy and breathing enough life into it to continue on further, they have removed their ability to assert any control on unfolding events.

They are now fully reliant upon the goodwill and word of Trident Tongued Theresa, who’s version of the truth has now been outed for what it really is, time-after-time.

It is a strange situation indeed, knowing well that there will be many of us outside of the Westminster bubble today, who have realised that Jeremy Corbyn calling a for a no-confidence vote in the Government, might now be the only way that the Tories can hope to eject May before her catastrophic take on a Brexit deal, is likely to be signed, sealed delivered and the UK as we know it has been well and truly done.

I say this, not because I have any desire for life as we know it in the UK to be transformed into Corbyn’s idea of a 21st Century Marxist State. I don’t.

I say this, because it is then and only under those circumstances that the Parliamentary Conservative Party would effectively have a tiny, comparatively minuscule window of opportunity to install a new Prime Minister and prevent either a General Election being called, or perhaps a Corbyn-led rainbow coalition simply being installed.

The stakes would be high. And for the anxious and faint of heart amongst us there is regrettably great risk.

After all, with the default form of many Conservative MP’s being that they have forgotten what being elected as a representative of the people is actually for, there is the inherent risk that even then they would prioritise their own choice for Leader (and the plum job that they no-doubt anticipate would follow) and blow the golden opportunity to hail the lifeboat, simply because their own priorities rise above those of the Electorate once more.

Sadly, sense may have little chance to prevail before Theresa May returns with her ‘re-worked’ Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

There is an additional risk that if Corbyn does instigate anything that can be called ‘constructive’ with a confidence vote, it will come too soon for the Tory Remainers to have their repetitive stress injuries from May’s dishonesty internally diagnosed, and probably not before every other trick in the Europhile playbook has again been rolled out in order to thwart democracy yet again.

I’ve written about all of this lots in recent days and weeks and I know that I am a very long way from being a lonely voice.

As voters, we pass responsibility for our communal choices to the people who are elected to be responsible for all of us and not only to themselves.

We should all be able to expect a lot more from Conservative Politicians and its time that they realised that every little thing they do with the responsibility of the Office which has been temporarily passed to them has the potential to impact the lives of everyone – whether that consequence should ultimately turn out to be good or bad.

So if a benevolent santa with a red tie and a cagoule should come calling on the Tories this festive season, please remember that its time to forget who’s naughty and who’s nice and start getting real about what treat comes after May.

image thanks to unknown