Misplacing the proletariat

The debate about a 20mph speed limit for Norwich rages on through various humps, chicanes and diversions – though not too fast, of course, since that would be dangerous.

A really quite astonishing number of letters have been published by the Eastern Daily Press expressing opposition for a number of good reasons. I hope this might encourage two key Conservative county councillors, who inexplicably abstained when the decision was made, to do a bit of representation of the people and make sure the scheme is removed from the agenda.

The man behind the idea – Professor Rupert Read, a philosophy lecturer at UEA and a Green city councillor – has shifted his ground. After claiming that 20mph was the will of the people, and the proletariat should dictate (I paraphrase), he discovered that the people weren’t actually behind him and wrote to the EDP quoting hand-picked statistics and claiming 20mph was really necessary so that cycling and walking were more appealing.

I myself walk a lot and do the odd bit of cycling here and there. Slower-moving cars would certainly not make me do either activity more, especially as one of the irritations for pedestrians is waiting for crawling traffic to pass so that you can cross the road.

I’m not sure that Prof Read has ever driven a car, because he seems to be under the assumption that having a 30mph limit means you have to drive at that speed. No, professor, it’s a maximum. Drivers adjust their speed to the conditions, except idiots, who don’t take any notice of speed limits anyway.

He also seems to think – and he’s not alone in this – that a driver travelling at 30mph will hit a pedestrian at 30mph. No again: this only happens if the driver has his eyes shut or his feet are paralysed. Only an appalling driver would totally fail to anticipate a potentially dangerous situation. Even if a child runs into the road completely unexpectedly, a driver will have at least some time to brake or swerve. A well-taught or experienced driver would anticipate the possibility in advance and reduce speed anyway.

It seems clear that Prof Read advocates 20mph because of his blinkered Green agenda. He does not question man-made climate change at all, despite his lack of qualifications in that area, and uses that belief to fuel such schemes as this. In fact, of course, going at 20mph instead of 30mph will have no impact on climate whatsoever, even if you accept the unproved notion that people are to blame for warming the planet.

That idea is promoted widely at the University of East Anglia and must be hard to resist if you work there. In the words of the EDP’s environment correspondent, East Anglia is “the heart of climate change research”, and it is essential to keep it beating. Recently the Building Research Establishment opened a branch at the UEA, joining “other pioneering organisations, including the CRed carbon reduction campaign, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Carbon Connections”.

Clearly any radical reassessment of the causes and effects of climate change would have dramatic repercussions on jobs and funding at the UEA. Still, no worries yet. BRE’s associate director of manufacturing said part of the reason for the move was to “take advantage of the students from the school of environmental sciences”. Well, quite.

Elsewhere some churchmen are showing signs of trying to assimilate the new religion of climate change into Christianity. The Bishop of Stafford has been labelled a “modern-day demonologist” (whatever that means) for linking scepticism about today’s received wisdom on the climate with the crime of child abuse.

Not sure what the Bishop was thinking about in making that bizarre link, but not all bishops are on the bandwagon. The Bishop of Chester who, unlike Stafford, is a scientist, made a measured speech in the Lords in which he said: “Climate science is a notoriously imprecise and poorly understood area … The history of science is littered with scientific consensuses that have come to be overturned one way or another.”

Needless to say he came under immediate attack from the usual suspects, led by knee-jerk specialists Friends of the Earth.

Still confused about Christianity? Chinavasion, a Chinese electronics wholesaler, has recently launched an MP3 player just for you. It’s shaped like a crucifix and comes preloaded with the King James version of the Bible. According to the Cross MP3 Player website, it is “making a fashion statement” and, at the time of writing, “unavailable”.

It certainly takes confusion to a whole new level.