RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Britain back in business? Er, no chance

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Ministers are telling us Britain is getting back to business but all the bike lanes and closed roadswith the economy on life-support is sheer madness

First the good news. Overseas travel may soon open up fully following the decision to lift quarantine restrictions on double-jabbed passengers from the U.S. and Europe.

If foreign governments reciprocate, which is far from certain, we’ll soon be free to fly to California and Catalonia again. Don’t rush to the airport just yet, though. President Biden may not open America’s borders until September at the earliest.

And, as we’ve seen in Northern Ireland, the EU is still smarting from Brexit and in no mood to do us any favours.

But at least there’s progress in the right direction. With any luck, flying abroad won’t be a big problem for much longer. It’s getting around Britain that’s the real nightmare.

The Government has ordered local councils across the country not to rip out hated cycle lanes.

In London, Mayor Genghis Khan has announced that the 30 per cent increase in the congestion charge is to be made permanent.

Both these measures were supposed to be temporary. But as I warned you more than a year ago, they were never likely to be reversed once the Covid crisis subsided. There’s nothing normal about the New Normal.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured) has announced that the 30 per cent increase in the congestion charge is to be made permanent

Bike lanes have caused chaos everywhere. Far from helping to improve air quality they have created traffic jams pumping out pollution. Most of the time they are practically deserted, while cars, vans and lorries are forced to squeeze into reduced road space.

The problem has been made ten times worse by the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which have closed roads completely and created havoc for residents, tradesmen and the emergency services alike.

In London, Khan is keeping the congestion charge at an extortionate £15 a day, up from £11.50. On top of that, from October motorists driving into central London from the outer suburbs will also be clobbered with a £12.50 daily low emissions charge.

If you have to take a vehicle into town five days a week, it will cost a staggering £137.50, on top of petrol, parking, road tax and insurance.

This could prove ruinous for small businesses such as plumbers, builders and electricians, who rely on their vans to carry tools and materials.

‘With Khan still insisting on mandatory mask-wearing on public transport, many commuters remain reluctant to travel by Tube’

They can hardly lug boilers, immersion heaters and scaffolding poles on the bus.

With Khan still insisting on mandatory mask-wearing on public transport, many commuters remain reluctant to travel by Tube.

If they live ten or 12 miles from the office, they’re hardly going to walk or cycle to work, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse. 

So the car is their best bet. But faced with forking out an arm and a leg for the privilege, it’s hardly surprising so many people want to keep on working from home.

Khan is tinkering with the congestion zone hours, but the charge will still apply at weekends. And the low emissions charge will be levied 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is terrible news for the hospitality and retail sectors, already struggling from more than a year of heavy losses and, now, serious staff shortages. The charges are backed by a network of enforcement cameras, which have issued fines totalling £14 million in London alone. 

Outside the city centre, the suburbs now resemble a crazy golf course, with giant flowerpots and park benches dumped in the middle of residential streets.

Turn left at the windmill and take a right at the Old Woman Who Lives In A Shoe.

Cycle lanes mean that all traffic is forced into single file, even on main roads. The story is the same in towns and cities right across the country.

There are now more than 200 LTNs, most notably in Oxford, Manchester, Birmingham, York, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, all of which have been met with fierce local opposition.

Laughably, ministers call this all-out war on motorists an ‘active travel’ scheme. We’ve come to expect this kind of anti-car blitz from loony Left Labour councils.

‘Cycle lanes mean that all traffic is forced into single file, even on main roads. The story is the same in towns and cities right across the country’

But how on earth did we end up with an allegedly pro-business Conservative government in thrall to the wilder fringes of the green lobby?

Yes, of course we all want cleaner air, but throwing obstacles in the way of mobility (in the case of LTNs, quite literally) at a time when the economy is on life-support is sheer madness.

It defies belief that faced with a global health emergency, a Conservative government in Britain thought that the most appropriate response to Covid was to close roads and build more bike lanes.

And that just as the pandemic is receding, ministers have ordered local authorities to make temporary measures permanent and prevent road transport getting back to normal.

The Government is also threatening to withhold grants from a £225 million ring-fenced fund unless councils demonstrate that they have ‘swift and meaningful plans to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians’.

All this as the preposterous pingdemic has led to bus and rail services being cancelled at a moment’s notice and Tube staff are preparing to celebrate the lifting of restrictions by going on strike.

At the same time, ministers are declaring that Britain is open for business. Try telling that to commuters facing crippling congestion charges and journey times two or three times longer than pre-Covid.

The way things are going, it will soon be quicker — and probably cheaper — to fly to California than drive a car through Camden Town.

This finger-lickin’ lunacy has no limits 

Today’s edition of You Couldn’t Make It Up comes from Toronto, Canada, where a food writer has declared that eating with a knife and fork is racist.

What most of us would simply consider to be good manners is apparently ‘dripping with the control and shame of colonialism’.

Joshna Maharaj says children should be taught to eat with their hands. ‘European table manners were imposed on conquered peoples in an attempt to civilise them.’ Yes, people eat differently in different parts of the world.

I once saw the American political pollster Frank Luntz pick up a Yorkshire pudding from his plate of roast beef, butter it and eat it like a bread roll.

Chef Joshna Maharaj (pictured) said the practice of teaching children that they shouldn’t use their hands at the table is ‘dripping with the control and shame of colonisation’ 

Would it have been ‘colonialist’ to correct him?

This culture wars nonsense inevitably crosses the Atlantic, like the Black Lives Matters madness. So it can only be a matter of time before we are all forced to eat with our fingers, or at least the ethnically appropriate utensils.

This could prove tricky. I don’t mind eating curry with naan bread in a balti house, but I’ve never mastered chopsticks.

Still, using a knife and fork will probably be considered a hate crime.

Now that everything’s ‘racist’ there’s no limit to this finger-lickin’ lunacy.

Angela Rayner (right) is the ‘dead spit of Catherine Tate’s stroppy teenager Lauren’ (left), says Mail reader

I’ve always thought Labour’s gobby, bovver-booted deputy leader Angela Rayner looked familiar. 

Now Mail reader Jim Ryan, from Manchester, has put me right. She’s the dead spit of Catherine Tate’s stroppy teenager Lauren.

Am I bovvered?

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