Grant Shats meets Lord Butler

Grant Shats, who when I write this is the Transport Secretary, but when you read this may not, given the increasingly strange and fluid nature of politics now. One where reality is an increasingly ephemeral notion, part of the current political orthodoxy whereby everything is soon forgettable – ‘a good day to bury bad news” as a spin doctor said on 911 -, opinions are both transitory and transactional and where hot air replaces cold fact. We are so used to politician saying one thing, but trying to convince us didn’t mean what we thought it meant but something else entirely different, that we take it as a given.

‘Clarification’ they call it, a delightful euphemism that treats language as something malleable, something open to interpretation and therefore negotiable. Shats is by no means the first to do this, because as we all know, politicians do this in the same instinctive way the rest of us draw breath, and he certainly won’t be the last, but he did tweet something a few days ago that makes me think he wants to be the Minister of Truth.

In response to the ongoing strike by members of the RMT union, Shats, never one to pour water on a fire when there’s some petrol handy, tweeted:

“We’ve announced an extra £130 million to protect vital bus services across the country. At a time when people are worried about rising costs, it’s crucial we save bus routes people rely on for everyday journeys.” Technically, this is true, as indeed an extra £130 million will help protect vital bus services, but will it offset the ceasation of around £2 billion emergency funding given during the pandemic? You know, the pandemic where older people were told to avoid public transport to protect their health. but against a setting where about 35% of people on a low income don’t have a car?

And as for saving bus routes? One thinks of the quote by an American major in Vietnam who said ‘In order to save the village we had to destroy it” Despite the end of emergency funding, the government is in the process of awarding more than £1.1bn to selected authorities under its bus service improvement plan (BSIP). All 79 local transport authorities rose to the challenge, which in effect meant they had to plead their case and prove they more worthy than others. So a typically Conservative strategy, as divisive as it is ideological. But in the end, only two in five of them received any of this funding at all, and even they received less than a quarter of what they asked for. The controversial competition eventually saw fewer than half of applicants receive BSIP funding, which cannot be used to sustain existing route networks.

So yes, what he tweeted was technically true, inasmuch as he didn’t outright lie because he was choosing his words very carefully, but we really do deserve better or do we get the politicians we deserve?

‘Half the picture can still be accurate‘, indeed.