Debate Not Hate

As campaigning gets underway for the city council elections on 4 May, leaflets from the various parties are flooding through letterboxes.

It’s an interesting time politically, because there are several important projects in the pipeline; the Sustainable Travel Zone (a.k.a Congestion Charge); The Cambourne to Cambridge Busway (a.k.a C2C); and the draft Greater Cambridge Local Plan.  Done well, these projects will transform our City, make it fairer and greener and set us on the path to resolving the climate emergency. Done badly, the process could tear us apart.

Carbon Neutral Cambridge, and many other campaigners have been calling for years for the City to be bolder and to move faster towards Net Zero.  Now that it’s starting to happen, those of us that care about the wellbeing of future generations need to get behind it. We can’t call for urgent action on climate change, but then object to anything more significant than the seeding of a new wildflower meadow.

Transformational change involves difficult choices, and it’s absolutely appropriate that there’s public debate about these.  Policy makers (and campaigners) need to listen, be open to new evidence and do their very best to find the fairest, most effective way forward.

However, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be whipped up into a frenzy of fear, anger and hate about things that are just not true.

For example, at the rally against the Congestion Charge in February, a surprising number of the protestors had come from a group called “Stand in the Park”.

Some of them were aggressive and hostile but I was able to talk with one of them, who’d come down from Yorkshire. He told me they thought it was all part of a global conspiracy organised by the World Economic Forum, to lock everyone down in their neighbourhoods and take away our cars. I thought this was nuts, but the group clearly believed it. He had come down from Yorkshire, and they had been protesting in Oxford the previous weekend. 

It is clear that there is scope to improve the Sustainable Travel Zone proposals, and I know from my experience of innovation that the final scheme (if it’s adopted) will be morphed and improved from the basic proposal in the consultation. It would be unfair to the 24,000 respondents if it was not.   

Inevitably this will involve some difficult decisions, because even when a scheme clearly benefits the majority, there will always be some people who are disadvantaged.

However, the level of hate that some of the councillors are being subjected to, is completely out of order.  They are decent people trying to do the right thing for our community. 

Disagreement is fine, but we must ‘Debate Not Hate