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Get on your horse.

By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.

IN THE COMPETITION among celebs and public figures to hit the top spot in the Woker-Than-Thou ratings, no fantasy can remain unpromoted and no unpleasant fact admitted. The field of self-pleasuring sanctimony is as wide as it is shallow. You can take your pick from a rich array of righteous causes and slide your ego from one to the other with effortless (and thoughtless) ease. You can always go one better than your rivals.

So no sooner had Prince William bested his simpering brother Harry in the woke stakes by berating a bunch of actors and directors at this year’s BAFTAs for not being diverse enough, than the PM announces he wants to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars in Britain from 2035 — five years earlier than his own administration is already committed to.

William is following the limp liberalism of his father, who had just made an appearance at Davos to warn the world yet again that it was about to be consumed by fire if it didn’t change its economic ways — a trip during which he also made sure he was given a photo-op with the world’s favourite eco pin-up, Ms Thunberg. Boris Johnson, presumably having to keep the new missus happy and seeking to appease the green lobby that infests the liberal establishment, used his announcement as a playground boast to place himself ahead of Labour, May and all the other major runners.

Not that there has been any sensible thought given to the proposal. The proponents of this policy are assuming that the technology, engineering, financial and social infrastructure for it will somehow all be in place before the deadline. But what will happen to existing petrol and diesel cars? How will rural areas cope with both the high cost of electric vehicles and the sparse supply of charging points? How long will the battery of an average electric last? What happens when batteries have to be disposed of? Companies who’ve been working on developing and selling hybrids will be stuffed, won’t they? The questions keep crashing into each other like a pile-up in the fog on one of the government’s dangerous “smart” motorways.

There’ll be waffle and backtracking and watering-down later. The car industry will be sending in squads of it lobbyists to acquaint ministers with the unpalatable realities of the world.

It’s not going to happen, we know that. The proposals are to be put forward in yet another international green jolly (a summit, no less, as these things are always called now), COP26. There’ll be waffle and backtracking and watering-down later. The car industry will be sending in squads of it lobbyists to acquaint ministers with the unpalatable realities of the world. Before long another UN or multinational virtue parade will come along with another set of panic priorities.

So it goes. But with the worst situation in mind — that motor vehicles will become the expensive playthings of the rich — perhaps we should look back to earlier times for a solution. The kind of greeny answer Monbiot and the like might hark back to in their desire to rewild and re-savage the country. Not railways, which are expensive to build and have limited reach, but horses. Until the advent of cheap motor cars horses were one of the main forms of transport. Riding nags, pony and trap, dray wagons, that sort of thing. Environmental benefits, manure. Grow your own veg and fragrant flowers; tomatoes, roses, the lot.

Think of the further benefits. This could mean the revival of old trades and our villages: wheelwrights, farriers and blacksmiths. A slower way of life. Better mental health. I can see the pre-industrial seventeenth century hoving into view…

Except the assorted vegans and animal rightists would object to us exploiting horses, which should otherwise be cavorting in rewilded fields and forests, with the unpolluted wind flowing through their untamed manes.

Bicycles, then, or variations thereof? Good grief, no, no and thrice no. Too much effort, for a start. Undignified. And too much like Amsterdam. Horses it will have to be, I’m afraid.


suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lincoln University (2005 – 2008), his poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press). Sucks to Your Revolution is a collection of his Fortnightly columns.

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