Last week the new Borismaster bus made its debut on the London streets, for a photocall in Trafalgar Square, before entering passenger service in February. I couldn’t go – I was doing something for the paper – and as you might know, I have mixed feelings about the compromised design anyway.
But there’s no doubt that aesthetically and environmentally the new vehicle is streets ahead of London’s current buses. And it has one other cardinal virtue: it is an infallible stupidity detector.
The Labour Party has spent the last two years demanding state investment in public services, in manufacturing, in green technology and in British jobs. This bus delivers all four. So why is Val Shawcross, Ken Livingstone’s mayoral running-mate, campaigning against it? Clearly on Planet Ken, the real need is for public services, manufacturing, green technology and British jobs – except any delivered by Boris Johnson.
Ms Shawcross, of course, has a long-standing interest in manufacturing – manufacturing fantasy figures for the cost of the Borismaster, that is, based solely on the cost of the first eight prototypes. Prototypes are always expensive, of course, but with hundreds of the buses to be produced the unit cost will come right down.
Still, even on Planet Ken, the numbers are heading in the right direction. On December 8, Ms Shawcross’s fantasy figure for the cost of the new Borismaster stood at £1.6 million per bus. By December 16, in heavy trading, it was down to £1.3 million – a £300,000 reduction in just over a week! At this rate, Val, by mid-January you’ll be paying us…
I have a feeling, too, that the new bus has really caught the public imagination: the only opposition I’ve found to it comes from the kind of people who think that putting the words “Bullingdon Club” in a blogpost constitutes a political argument. You sort of have to admire the Ken Left’s absolute determination to attach themselves to the most unpopular causes imaginable. What’s next, I wonder – taking money from the striking Tube drivers? Oh, wait a minute…
PS: If you want to see the Borismaster for yourself, and missed its public displays in Shepherds Bush and Stratford at the weekend, it is on show next month in the following places:
Wed 4th Jan: Bexleyheath Broadway (10-12) and Bromley High Street (2-4).
Thurs 5th Jan: Romford High Street (10-12) and Ilford High Road (2-4).
Fri 6th Jan: Ealing Haven Green (10-12) and Golders Green Bus Station (2-4).
Sat 7th Jan: Sutton High Street (10-12) and Kingston High Street at Guildhall (2-4).