Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“But what is different, what is sinister, and what we shouldn’t tolerate, is the idea that local councils can decide how often you go to the shops, and that they can ration who uses the roads and when, and that they police it all with CCTV”

Mark Harper, Transport Secretary, Conservative Party Conference

Facts

Transport Secretary Mark Harper told the Tory Conference he was “calling time on the misuse of so-called 15-minute cities. There’s nothing wrong with making sure people can walk or cycle to the shops or school. That’s traditional town planning.”

“But what is different, what is sinister, and what we shouldn’t tolerate, is the idea that local councils can decide how often you go to the shops, and that they can ration who uses the roads and when, and that they police it all with CCTV.”

The 15-minute city refers to the idea that residents should be able to access everyday services within a 15 minute walk or bike ride.

As Full Fact points out, there is no evidence that councils are planning to restrict how frequently residents go to the shops, or have any intention of policing residents’ access to amenities with CCTV.

While some councils – including Oxfordshire – have announced plans to introduce traffic restrictions, these are not directly connected to the idea of the 15-minute city, and are typically presented as ways to reduce air pollution.

Verdict

Alarmist nonsense from Transport Secretary Harper. At the time of writing (31/01/23), he has not corrected the record.

We emailed Mark Harper’s office offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply.

Additional Note

Though in itself a relatively trivial example, Mark Harper’s invocation of authoritarian local councils deciding when people can go to the shops was an early example of a new form of political deceit especially characteristic of the Sunak administration: namely the invention of an imaginary threat to galvanise political support and create the false impression that ministers are taking action on behalf of voters. 

Published 28 Jun 2024
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