Thursday, 26 May 2011

Obama's congestion charge

I know this isn't the most exciting thing to write about, but everything else about Obama's visit has been analysed repeatedly. (Huw Edwards was so desperate to make it historic that he kept repeating "This is the first time a US President has addressed both houses of Westminster Hall", like the room it took place in makes any difference to its historic-ness. Next time he will probably be saying "This is the first time a US President has addressed both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall...on a Thursday afternoon", but I digress)

Before he arrived Boris of London mentioned the US embassy's unpaid congestion charge. Now I'm all for the US paying the congestion charge like anyone else, but apparently they are exempt due to diplomats not paying foreign taxes. Boris argued that the congestion charge is not a tax. The reason the congestion charge is not a tax is because it is a "charge for services". Maybe he should look up what a tax is. All taxes are indirectly charges for services, and I'm pretty sure the money from the congestion charge doesn't go directly into road building.

The next point Mr Johnson made was slightly more absurd. The reason the Pope did not pay the charge but Obama was expected to was: "Unlike the Pope where we didn't charge the Popemobile because we closed the roads, when The Beast rolled through London that Beast paid a congestion charge." If anything is bad for congestion it's closing roads. What Boris essentially said is that had Obama insisted on private roads he would not have had to pay, despite the enormous extra expense of closing off roads, policing and the money lost to the local economy through people being stuck in traffic jams. The Pope should have had to pay an extra charge for closing the roads. And an extra charge for being a doofus.

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