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Hostile response

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 09:37 UK time, Friday, 30 May 2008

To Blackburn for a conference. A couple of petrol stops during the journey leave me in service station queues with grumpy drivers of trucks and cars. Let's just say you wouldn't have wanted to be Gordon Brown.

Radio 1 logoNot a hugely revelatory observation, though what struck me was that this was much stronger and more hostile than British people's traditional humorous cynicism and dismissal of elected representatives. More like hatred and contempt. Radio 1's listeners, in far greater numbers, have reflected those views.

Our first coverage of the road tax and fuel protests stories on the Chris Moyles show brought a rapid, furious and voluminous response. Later in the day, our computer which gathers listeners' texts crashed: it apparently couldn't cope with the weight of response. During the day the texts were running 90% plus hostile to the government.

Petrol pumpMy other editor colleagues have noted similar responses - though one said to me he was a bit surprised ours weren't a bit more, well, green. Younger audience after all: big gas-guzzling cars bad, bicycles good?

Jenni, who's 17, told us she'd already paid £600 to learn to drive and once she's passed, paying for petrol, insurance and road tax will take up more than half her wages: she can't afford a car - but she needs one.

Another texter pointed out that driving his inefficient car was still cheaper than the train - and with public transport in the South East as expensive as it is - it's a trap people can't escape.

Younger people are often the ones driving older cars - and facing big hikes in car taxes as a result. Not fair, they say, from a party supposed to represent poorly-paid working people - that was a view of many people.

Back to my garage queue in Lancashire: as one lorry man raged about ministers' inability to "get" the 10p tax issue and the cumulative effect of rises in motoring costs, it struck me we BBC journalists have busy political times ahead...even if next time, I might just get the train for a quieter life.


  • Comment number 1.

    The ferocity of the public's response does not surprise me one bit. The cost of fuel is not entirely the Government's fault, of course, but most of us are fed up with the anti car stance that politicians and local authorities have adopted in recent years.

    It is time they faced up to the fact that the car, including mass car ownership is here to stay and must be accommodated.

    By all means develop alterantive fuels, certainly work to make cars cleaner and more efficient - we will all go along with that.
    And making all cars use (say) 20% less fuel is going to a lot easier to achieve than cutting car use by even a small amount.

    But owning a car is freedom, it is independence, it is part of our lifestyles, even an expression of who we are. Any politician who messes with that will get a well deserved thrashing at the polls. If they did not learn that after the fuel protest of a few years ago, they certainly should learn it now before embarking of road pricing schemes, punitive taxation and "car-free" developments.

  • Comment number 2.

    Oh the Ivory Tower of BBC.

    Lets start with a correction Rod. Please stop calling the bbc staff journalists. It causes confusion in the definition of the term.

    A journalist is someone who who reports the actuality of events. What you do at the BBC is propoganda, you report the events as the state wishes them to be seen.

    There is a difference and i would imagine real journalists find you claim to the title similar to girls aloud claiming they are singer/songwriters.

    As for your sudden realisation that the people are angry with the present state of things, where have you been?

    we have had to finance a 18 year war in Iraq
    we are losing our rights at home - rendition anyone
    we have had our govt. hand out billions of public money to save private banks.
    we have seen our savings and pensions disappear.
    we are now watching oil head towards $200/per barrel.
    and we have a food crisis up ahead

    the people are waking up to truth, from the con that was 9/11 and 7/7 to the private banks that run our country.

    lets hope those in the ivory tower wake up soon, because the ire of the people might soon move from the govt. for doing all this to the bbc for helping them.

  • Comment number 3.

    Obviously there has been a major sea change in England since we left Birmingham for Florida in 1957. In those far-off days we did not have a car, a phone in the house, or indeed any of the myriad gadgets that are thought to be so necessary for one's existence in today's materialistic world. We walked to the bus, went to a phone box if it was necessary to contact a doctor or a relative fortunate enough to own a phone, and my pay came in a packet with pound notes and coins inside. I don't recall ever seeing a cheque.

    Today's younger folk might find it hard to believe that we did quite well under those "trying" circumstances. We were much fitter, and certainly far less obese, due to the fact that we walked everywhere.

    Fortunately, our family doctor owned a car, which made it much easier for him to make house visits when the children got sick. If I remember correctly, he tended to be somewhat corpulent, probably due to the fact that he drove everywhere!

    So, you might ask, what's your point? None, really, except that even though motorists are upset about the rising price of petrol they might stop to be thankful that they don't have to live the "spartan" life we lived before and after World War II.

  • Comment number 4.

    I am pleasantly surprised by this article.

    Usually we have the BBC desperately trying to plug the leaking holes in the sinking labour ship by paying as little attention as possible to the dramatic swing to the Conservatives in the local elections and the election of a Conservative Mayor of London and putting the most positive spin possible on this disaster for Labour, the party so dear to the "impartial" BBC, by rallying around Labour to see what can be done to salvage something from the defeat and snubbing the Conservatives.

    But here we have Rod McKenzie giving us straight reporting on a furious public attack on the government in general and Gordon Brown in particular, without any ifs, ands, buts and maybes - in fact, without any qualifications whatsoever.

    It made me wonder for a moment whether I was actually reading this on the BBC.

    Just one question: I wonder whether Rod McKenzie really thinks that the BBC is going to report objectively on this appalling Labour government in the "busy political times ahead."

  • Comment number 5.

    That's interesting comment Rod. Do you think 'London' as a whole reflects widespread opinion in the UK? The BBC Trust recently raised this question and highlighted recent survey work that suggested that those outside London loved the BBC less than those inside? Maybe politically there is a difference as well?

    Not sure if you are affected by the proposed move to Salford however this I believe can only increase the ability of the BBC to 'connect' with a wider variety of views that can sometimes be heard in the Westminster or Media villages of London.

    I think it was Andy Marr who said that although the BBC wasn't bias as such, there was a metropolitan liberal 'view' in the BBC, and perhaps this is reinforced ariound those who work in this environment so it can come as a 'shock' to be exposed to different views when you take a step outside?

    Interesting post, thought provoking, thanks.

  • Comment number 6.

    Rod - I think the 'green' bubble is about to burst. The chattering classes were in favour of it in an abstract form. But now the truth is coming out: the current manisfestation of 'green' equals increasing tax, declining standard of living and a threat to your way of life. Now the silent majority are talking.

    Several commentators have noted that David Cameron has gone very quiet on 'green' issues.

    Expecting the turkeys to vote for christmas is unrealistic.

    (I think people in power need to start thinking more about realistic alternatives to fossil fuels rather than just taxing without offering an alternaive)

  • Comment number 7.

    What would a tax reduction on fuel really mean?

    1. An equivalent increase in another tax.
    2. Less incentive to cut pollution.
    3. Less incentive to introduce alternatives.
    4. More congestion, wasting more fuel and time.
    5. Fatter people, because you can't be bothered to walk half a mile to school or to the local shops. (I realise that this is a generalisation and not everyone lives in a town or city).

    We have got to this point because we wasted 10 years denying that oil is finite and bad for us, when we should by now have a hydrogen based economy. Hydrogen produced by sustainable means, wind, tidal, wave, hydro etc.

    It is human nature to be selfish and take the short term view and we certainly are intent on proving our humanity.

  • Comment number 8.

    SuperJulian at #1 above has discovered a new inalienable human right! The right to accelerated individual hypermobility .

    It seems that, no matter what the consequences, we have a right to cheap fuel to power our "freedom", our "independence", our "lifestyle", our "expression of who we are"!

    In fact, we have gone to war to preserve and defend this new right.

    I'm also amused by the idea that such hypermobility can be described as "independence", considering its total dependence upon fuels and distribution systems therefore, roads built at public expense, autos and their manufacture, repair and maintenance infrastructure, etc., etc., A very strange form of independence, it seems to me.


  • Comment number 9.

    There is not much scope in the options available to people for avaoiding the general rise in the cost of living.

    We have become very reliant on personal transport ... public transport is not a viable option because it remains expensive, inconvenient, crowded and dirty.

    Many of us are reliant on supermarkets for what we eat ... few, if any of us, have an allotment where we can grow our greens. We, certainly, don't have any time to devote to such things if we have them.

    A lot of us in the past few years have had enough money to 'eat out' ... this has made us accustomed to the easy life. Many will resent having to give such luxuries up ... [not least the gastro pubs/restaurants that have made a decent living].

    A sudden change in lifestyle from conspicuous consumption to frugality will be difficult and we might extract a pound of flesh from Mr Brown. However, there are no alternatives and other parts of the world have it far worse than we do.

  • Comment number 10.

    Does the BBC pay for your rail travel 1st class ? Or like me , the only way to travel to London from Manchester and not pay an arm,a leg and a kidney, is to "book" two weeks before I wish to travel, and heaven forfend I should miss my train, the ticket is invalid,worthless and heading for the bin.May the Lord have mercy on your soul should you miss the bin. Thou shalt be "captured" on CCTV. The computer will cross reference your photo with the cameras outside and inside every railway station and a fine of £80 for littering will add insult to injury. This is england , sad ,sad england today.

  • Comment number 11.

    A *couple of stops* on a trip to Blackburn?? What were you driving, an XJR? My large five-seater Volvo can do 550 miles on one tank.

    Try driving an efficient car efficiently and you might find that the oil price rises aren't as bad as you've been squawking.

  • Comment number 12.

    But we have no one to blame but ourselves,
    we let these incompetent and corrupt leaders take over and now look at the mess, here in the USA is as bad as in England and the EU, all together we are sending 1.5 trillion dollars for Oil and Gas to exporters, instead of re-building our old countries ( here in the USA, already our bridges and tunnels are cracking and we need 2 trillion dollars in infrastructure repairs to get going, so we must demand a total change from our leaders or vote them all out of office, the new generations must get involved right the meantime, the International Energy Agency is one place where solutions should happen, but just try to reach the Executive-Director Tanaka , it's like an Oil Bunker....

    International Energy Agency :

    Mr.Tanaka, executive-director IEA :

    The Energy solution is simple :

    a) install solar panels and turbines on every building on the planet,

    b) install solar panels and turbines on top of every parking lot ( as shade ) around the world,

    c) install solar cells ,concentrators and thermal tubes on the sides of every highway in the world,

    d) install E-85 ethanol pumps on every gas station ( from sugar cane and jathropa ,etc. and not corn) and also every gas station with electrical plug-ins ,

    e) install wind and water turbines on all coasts where locals agree,

    f) organize all trash to be burned for vapor steam for heating as well as electricity, companies already in the EU pay 100 to 150 dollars a ton of garbage to turn into steam,

    g) build the Mother of all hydrogen or methanol fuelcell , a chain fuelcell reaction of 500 megawatts to one gigawatt of power, if Europe or the USA does not do this magnitude, I know Japan,Korea ,Taiwan ,India or China will do it,

    h) geothermal plants everywhere there is geothermal activity , and in the EU and USA is plentiful,

    i) get the ITER fusion ignition reactor project crancking, and sized for ships, trains, buildings and factories,

    j) on natural coal, we can use Fischer -Tropsch methods to get diesel from coal, the best way would be to offer a 10 to 50 million euro Prize ,tax free, to anyone or any Center ,University,etc., that finds concrete ways to captures CO2 for transport and storage,totally, since money seems to motivate....also prizes for filters or chemical reactions for power plants stacks toxic fumes capturing...its a reality since China,India,USA ,Russia and the EU, among others have billions of tonnes of natural coal, we need solutions...

    k) also, to cut down on consumption, we need every human with laptops and video-conference simple tools to work long distance,tele-work worldwide, with voice,video and data on IP, so dear Mr. Tanaka ,will you ask the leaders of the world to do something useful ?

    Next month, on the G-8 meeting , the top leaders of the world will get together again to achieve ..... nothing , brilliant !

    will they start precise construction of anything ? no !

    will they push solar and turbines Tax Cuts and Credits? no !

    will they start training carpenters,electricians,plumbers, masons,roofers,etc., to install solar and wind turbine hardware ? no !

    will they demand car makers to start selling hybrids and electrics on a massive scale ? no !

    will the auto workers unions ask them to do it ? no !

    and you ?

  • Comment number 13.

    Perhaps Rob needs to read Kevin's post above?

  • Comment number 14.

    Where did you get the idea that younger people are “greener” than older people? Did you think they were green enough to fall for the BBC hype that you trot out everyday?

    Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that, thanks to the internet and multi channel news, we are getting a more rounded picture of events and not just the BBC-speak that we have had to put up with for many years.


    Sorry to be boring, but I tried twice to post this next but to Racism of Over-Sensitivity (12th March 2007) but it didn't get through. Perhaps you can redirect it?...

    Re-submitted on 19th March 2007

    Patrick Mercer told the truth. We live in an Orwellian age where to speak the truth could end one’s career. The liberal left have a monopoly of the airwaves, especially the BBC. Hence the disconnect between what you were broadcasting and the messages you were receiving. Politicians must cow-tow to the media, hence the disconnect between voters and mainstream politicians and hence the low turn out.

    Rod, if you were, say, in Tanzania (to take a random country), as a minority British pink-skinned person and there were laws, protocols and media pressure that railed against discrimination towards British pink-skinned people, wouldn’t you, if you were at the bottom rung, perhaps in poverty – wouldn’t you take any chance you had of improving your chances, even if that meant using accusations of discrimination to further your cause? I’m not talking about Rod, a successful editor at the BBC who can afford to keep to strict morals (let’s say), I am talking about someone who maybe living on the breadline. I know two people personally who have played the race card. One was open about it to me. He came over from India and worked himself up the ladder in a large organisation. He was rightly proud of what he had achieved, but admitted that he got promotion because of his ethnicity. He simply threatened to take his bosses to an industrial tribunal if he was turned down for the job he was going for. He didn’t much care for liberals and was very much a market-driven man. He turned out to be very good at his job. So what if he used the system? Isn’t that what most other people do? Another chap, who came from Ghana, worked for another company in a lowly job. He often turned up for work drunk and was frankly dangerous. His boss admitted that he was too scared to do anything about it as this chap had threatened to complain of racial harassment. I do not blame either of these people for working the system. It is the fault of the system, not the people.

    In workplaces where men are in the majority, it is part of the culture to barrack each other. Most people are labelled with unflattering nick-names, usually based on the way they speak, or an unusual body part or the colour of their skin. Speak with any building site foreman, factory supervisor, football team manager or anyone from the armed forces. If they can forget the big brother world we are in nowadays, you will hear stories of men barracking other men, where there is no room for sensitivity, where no holds are barred. You will also hear stories of great comradeship amongst men, across all colours and creeds. Men do not usually make subtle distinctions that the BBC might do. It is an oddity of life that is seems OK to call someone a Geordie or a Scouser, but as soon as a political border is crossed, similar terms cannot be used. Even odder, are the exceptions to this rule. It seems that we can be mildly derogatory against the French, the Germans and, of course, the Americans, but Nigerians (for example) are off limits. Perhaps all the workers around the country should be given lessons on naughty words and phrases that are allowed and those that are not.

    Orwell got one thing wrong, and so have the BBC and its liberal friends. In the real world, little has changed. The BBC and the politicians are living on their planet, whilst the rest of us live on the real planet that we always have. Building site banter and banter in the armed forces is probably about the same as it ever was.
    To say that all ethnic minorities are lazy is ridiculous. That is simply untrue. To say that none or them play the race card for advancement is equally ridiculous. To dismiss a man for saying an obvious truth is ignorant and sinister. It is also patronising to many of those from ethnic minorities, many of whom, as I know from personal testimony, treat such views with contempt.

    The disconnect between real life and BBC politicians who must be BBC friendly to get heard, is scary. We need to get real. Treating those in minority communities with kid gloves is the same as treating them with disrespect. If I was the only ethnic Brit in Tanzania, and found myself in the Tanzanian army, and all the soldiers were barracking each other with nasty nicknames, I would feel a bit left out if they were too scared or embarrassed to call me a nasty name. That is discrimination.


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