Revolution isn't easy

Spanking, mascara and a range of other thorny topics

Dear Marina,

Thought I'd ask for your assistance on tackling what I am sure will be a thorny issue over the next few weeks, that is being accused of suffering from a traditional Conservative pastime, I am led to believe, of taking a spanking. I am assured that all the best schools still appreciate this form of 'social education', never did me any harm and all that, but I am worried that the younger generations today lack the stiff upper lipishness to take it without blubbing. What is your advice on dealing with this situation?

Chin up dear gal, we shall overcome.

Yours,

Wurzel Fortesque-Smythe, 3rd Earl of Little Snodgrass.

I too Lord Snodgrass have recently been tainted by this pastime so beloved of that Spliffing Toff and his lackeys.

Oh sir! The anguish, the guilt, the turmoil. There was nothing I could do to stop them. Over the knees I went, my skirt pulled up unceremoniously, exposing my pert bare cheeks to the vagaries of their strike. Thwack! Thwack! And Thwack again!

Believe me sir, I implored them to stop, I fought hard to escape, but my squeals of protestation fell on deaf ears and the more I struggled, the harder they spanked. I stand before you, scarred, sir but an innocent party to this cheek drubbing. Our seats didn’t stand a chance.

When I have recovered enough to sit down I promise you sir I shall have my revenge on these Tories for their sadistic perversion of the democratic process.

In short sir, they so spanked the wrong peach bottom.

Dear Marina,

I come from four generations of coal miners, my first memory is of mum singing The Internationale and I have spent most of my adult life in Riffley WMC. My problem is that I am seriously thinking about getting into politics, considering the local election results do you think I should try and become a Tory councillor?

On the fence, Riffley

Are you really suggesting that if you can’t beat them you should join them? People like me didn’t lay down our political lives so that people who should know better swap sides for the enemy.

Please, either contact your local Liberal Democrats or go lie down in a darkened room until common sense prevails.

Dear Marina,

I have never been a fan of my local MP Tony Blair, and was very active in the anti-war protests - even burning an effigy of the man. But when I watched him in Sedgefield last night, I have to admit to shedding a tear or two. Am I strange or do, like me, most middle aged housewives secretly just want to hug him?

Homemaker, Sedgefield

Pull yourself together woman. This is the man who brought the Labour party to its knees, our country to war and rendered the NHS unstable and critical. Among other things.

I missed most of his speech yesterday owing to a sudden need to vomit in a bucket I had foresightedly placed beside me for that very purpose. So I cannot comment on yesterday’s performance.

But hug Tony Blair? He’s not some wayward toddler in need of love and attention, he’s a grown man with an ego the size of Mars and the morals of a Babylonian whore.

Now get yourself along to your doctor and ask him to prescribe Bromide incase we have a snap General Election and you’re tempted to vote for him.

Dear Marina,

Why do women always have to put mascara on with their mouths open?

GB, Downing St

Because, Gordie, it would smudge under the eyes, otherwise. Please, I know you’re trying to appeal to women, but this isn’t working. Please don’t ask me another. Oh, and expect a demonstration when you get to Brighton on Sunday. In 1997 you pledged to never let houseprices spiral out of control. Here in Brighty the boom – or should that be bubble - adds £74.00 to the value of a home, EVERY DAY!

I’m delighted you listened to me regarding ID cards. Review by all means, but don’t forget to cancel the order once you’ve rounded up the paper work But you must also concentrate on housing needs, otherwise it won’t be a peaceful revolution and you’ll be the first up against the wall with David Cameron wielding the Cat-o-nine-tails!

Dear Marina,

After the local elections has Ming “the vase” shattered his chances of leading the party at the next

GE

Some critics might argue as to whether the vase is half full or half empty. Some might even mix their metaphors to ask: “Is it half baked?” I would suggest, as does God, I believe, in the bible, that we should concentrate on the empty vessels that make the most noise (Corinthians). Ming’s deafening silence during the run up to the local elections, therefore, could be construed as proof positive that the vase overfloweth – with flowers of the revolution perhaps.

It would be helpful if he could hang on a bit as my road to parliament – and leadership -has been blocked by an unwelcome landslide but I’m digging myself out as fast as I can. For as sure as Ming’s dynastic reign must come to an end, so surely must come the revolution. Viva Ming! Viva the revolution. Viva my parliamentary campaign which is already accepting donations to the usual address.

Dear Marina

This is just to say sorry about your election result last week. I'm in
the Green Party and I'm always surprised at your choice of party but we
need all the active original politicians we can get. Good courageous
stuff about the war too! Perhaps East Saltdean isn't the best place to
start the revolution but I hope you will find other ways to continue to
be active.

In solidarity,

Chris Smith, Lewes

Revolutions begin with like-minded individuals grouping together for strength and working together for change. Whether it’s a gradual change “in due course” or fast and radical, depends on the revolution.

I disagree that East Saltdean is an unsuitable locale for revolutionary zest. Let’s face it, if I can get my Tory voting neighbours to go green (small ‘g’ OBVIOUSLY!), through education and empowerment I sincerely believe our success could be replicated anywhere!

I can’t answer for our newly elected Conservative Councillors though. What a bunch of ….. No I promised myself to reclaim the ideology associated with that particular anatomical reference as a positive for womankind . . .

But as I’ve often said: if you’re blue and you want to go green, you need yellow. I still have my town council seat. I shall use this minute, almost homeopathic, dose of Liberal Democracy to heal my people of their moment of madness. I shall happily square up to the henchmen of the Spliffing Toff sitting across the council chamber. I shall work harder than ever to prepare my community for change.

Come the next General Election I will do all in my power to squeeze the shit out of the Conservative vote to ensure our constituents are protected from the prospect of a millionaire Tory from out of town being returned to parliament as our MP.

Regarding your surprise at my choice of political party, it really is a no brainer. As a practitioner of community politics I find Liberal Democrat policies practical to implement and highly effective, particularly in the area of crime reduction.

If I had my way I’d have the Greens absorbed into the Liberal Democrats. It wouldn’t necessarily enhance our green credentials, as we’re already doing that for ourselves. It would however stop you lot running round like anarchists standing for election wherever you fancy, splitting the vote and delivering the Conservatives to office.

Perhaps the Greens secretly hanker for a Tory government in the hopes that a dictatorial regime in the spirit of Thatcher might wave the flag for green fascism.

Thank you for supporting my anti-war protest, as did many old soldiers at the reunion dinner of the Royal Sussex Regiment to which I was invited as a guest and after dinner speaker. All I said was “as a future leader I pledge never to take this great army of ours into an illegal war.” I cannot apologise for the furore, as I never mentioned Iraq. But at least we know now that those soldiers present from the Princess of Wales regiment, who led the booing, recognise the invasion of Iraq as illegal. Now they and the press who turned against me, just need convincing that it is the Emperor who is naked and in need of a new outfit, not the “small boy” who is wrong and deserving of punishment.

No one said the revolution was going to be easy…

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

***

Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.