Today I tried to travel from Westminster to Holborn, a journey I make frequently and for which I normally allow half an hour. There was a sign up in the underground indicating that the lines I would have used were severely delayed and others were closed. Indeed, passengers had to be evacuated from a stalled Jubilee Line train yesterday. The traffic was just not moving, and in despair I got out of the bus and walked (nice, yes, but I was in a hurry, had the wrong shoes, and it was hot!) There was a protest by lorries blocking Parliament Square, and the police had chosen lunch time to block one lane on the Embankment in order to spot check cars to see whether they had insurance and a valid licence, thereby bringing the Embankment traffic to a halt. I missed my meeting. Later today I noticed the bags of garbage lining Oxford St. and the road works impeding the pavement which surely will not be completed in time.
There is an implied message from London to the rest of the world in relation to the Olympics, and it is – don’t come. You will spend so long queuing at Heathrow that the event will have finished! You won’t be able to move around London and the hotels are charging twice as much as usual. Stay at home, watch it in comfort on televison, and save the carbon emission.
London is just not the right place for the Olympics. Tessa Jowell is now reported as having said that had we known what we know now (namely, the recession) we would not have bid for them. Nearly every day questions are asked in the Lords about various aspects of poverty and lack of funds – the children of asylum seekers, care of the elderly, cuts to education grants, cuts to legal aid. See the recent blogs on Living Below the Line. Should we not be ashamed of our priorities when we are prepared to spend £10bn on an extravaganza for a few weeks, but not on basic living standards?
Countdown starting now – 106 days and it will all be over!