On Monday, millions of commuters will return to work in the capital to find that their public transport fares - already the most expensive in the world - have been hit with yet another price rise. Mayor Boris Johnson has increased fares by 6-11% last year, and has committed to further above-inflation price increases this year. Most significantly, bus fares are to rise by 12.7% from the 4th of January - a move that will disproportionately and unashamedly penalise London's poorest.
Don't believe me? The average bus-riding commuter will be paying about 70p extra per day. Presuming you don't leave the house at weekends, that's an extra £3.50 per week. That's an extra £182 per year. For someone on a city worker's salary that won't make a blind bit of difference, but for someone earning barely enough to feed themselves, it will make all the difference. But then, city workers don't often take the bus.
Sunny at Liberal Conspiracy has the story, pointing out that Boris is once again extorting money from his poorest and neediest constituents, whilst continuing to oppose tax increases for the capital's wealthier residents. "Theoretically, increasing fares should decrease income for London Transport as people are put off from travelling, and yet fares keep rising despite the recession...but when taxes are raised on the rich, [Boris argues] against them on the basis they will not raise any extra income. In other words, if a policy hits London’s poor: implement it. If it hits the richest, argue against it."
And a very merry and prosperous 2010 to you too, Boris - I'm sure you're looking forward to one. For the rest of us, this is what happens when we allow ourselves to get dazzled by cartoon politics: we elect dangerous smiling bastards who don't give a damn about poverty and inequality and who are quite willing to make life exponentially harder for the low-paid majority at the expense of a privileged few.
Like Boris, I live in the greatest city on earth. Unlike Boris, I believe that making it harder for the poor to live and thrive in London diminishes my city's greatness. And that's the key difference between the Tories and everyone else: at the core of Conservative ideology is the conviction that the few and the privileged are the only people whose lives and contributions really matter.