Boris's call for tax relief on season tickets is a gimmick to hide his failures

The majority of lower-income Londoners don't have season tickets and will continue to suffer from above-inflation fare rises.

Next stop in the cost of living campaign, after energy prices, is public transport fares, which are still rising above inflation despite average incomes falling. Boris does a smoke-and-mirrors job on this with a ridiculous proposal in today’s Daily Telegraph for tax relief on season tickets while fares for non-season ticket holders continue to rise above inflation.

His scheme – set out in two paragraphs tacked to the end of a column on the joys of the No. 38 bus – would give a tax break to annual season ticket holders whose employers apply for it on their behalf. Leaving aside the practicalities – why only annual season ticket holders? what about employers who don’t play ball? – this proposal is grossly unfair.  It amounts to a big immediate fares cut for season ticket holders, who are generally both in full-time work and better off, so able to afford season tickets, at the expense of the majority of workers who don’t have them.

Annual season ticket holders would get an immediate cut of nearly a third in their fares in saved tax and national insurance. Boris claims it would be "millions of tourists" who would pay more. But the great majority of lower-income Londoners, including part-time workers, don’t have season tickets. They mostly use Oyster pay-as-you-go and, in many cases, would be sensible to do so even if they could afford season tickets.

So this is another gimmick, not a sensible policy. Why is Boris punting it out at all? As a smoke-and-mirrors distraction from the real issue, which is whether this January fares will, yet again, rise faster than inflation. His tax wheeze enables him to say he favours a better deal for working Londoners but is being stopped by the dastardly Treasury.  And even if it happened, it would cost less than a fares freeze, and – dare one say – be more targeted on potential Tory voters.  

Andrew Adonis is a Labour peer and shadow infrastructure minister. He previously served as transport secretary and schools minister

Boris Johnson delivers his speech at the Conservative conference in Manchester last week. Photograph: Getty Images.
Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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