The British Conservative Party have launched their 2001 election campaign with a pledge to knock sixpence (presumably per litre) off fuel duty. This may be regarded as a typical Tory policy, and also damn stupid.

1: Doing so will cost the country two billion pounds a year. This, at a time when the Tories are attacking Labour for overspending.

2: Doing so will increase pollution.

3: The Tories claim that the present high rate of fuel duty penalises families. This is self-evidently claptrap. I am one of a family of five. More or less whenever our car moves (which we try to minimise) it has at least four of us in it. So the per capita benefit of the Tories' tax cut to us would be just over a penny per litre, whereas a single person who drives a large car containing only him- or herself will save the full sixpence a litre. Clearly thge measure is aimed at the Tories' traditional supporters: rich, selfish businesspeople.

The Tories are also, simultaneously, running a poster campaign asking 'You paid the tax: where are the trains?' The answer is simple: the last Conservative government sold them off in one of the worst-managed, least reasonable acts of privatisation ever. The Labour administration has had to pour money into rationalising the whole mess, while the shareholders have got rich. The Tories don't want us to use trains.

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