Confessions of a Political Animal

February 4, 2009

A letter to the Mayor


For all the Animal’s claims to socialistic purity, at heart I remain a money-grabbing little so-and-so and will happily jump at the chance to obtain some free cash. Even if it is only £3.11. But particularly if it’s from Boris Johnson. Below is the text of a letter dispatched to the Mayor this afternoon.

Dear Boris,

As you are well aware, London was subject to very heavy snowfall on the night of Sunday 1st February, which led to severe disruption of public transport across all modes on the following day. This included the withdrawal of almost all buses and severe disruption to rail, Underground and DLR services.

My journey from East Greenwich to xxxxxxx normally uses a combination of rail and DLR, with a bus alternative as a backup in case of disruption. On 2nd February, neither of these routes was available to me. Fortunately, I was able to reach my place of work via functioning sections of the Underground, with lengthy walks in difficult conditions at either end. My return journey used a combination of one of the bus routes re-instated later in the day, the Underground, a boat and another lengthy walk. However, I have no particular complaint about this. I fully understand that Monday’s weather conditions were exceptional and that is not financially or politically sensible to proof the city’s infrastructure against such a rare occurrence. I should also add that all members of TfL staff who I encountered were helpful, well-informed and doing their best to make a bad situation work as well as possible. The key failure I experienced was the complete lack of information provided by the private sector operator of the South Eastern Railway, with whom I trust you will be having stern words.

However, in following the reaction of your office to the severe weather, I was surprised to note your decision to suspend the congestion charge for the duration of the day, which seemed remarkably illogical considering the advice of the Metropolitan Police and the Highways Agency was not to drive unless absoloutly necessary. In the Mayor’s Office press release, you are quoted as saying:

‘As a gesture of my appreciation for those who have travelled to work this morning I have instructed TfL to suspend the congestion charge today.’

I am certain that the vast majority of those who travelled into work in London on 2nd February did so either by the residual public transport networks or on foot – and many of the latter will have had pre-paid public transport tickets for the day. All of these people coped with very difficult and often unpleasant conditions. It would therefore seem just and equitable if your gesture of appreciation could be a little bit wider, to include those who made it into work without putting their own and others’ lives at risk by driving manually guided metal containers along slippery roads.

I would therefore be grateful if, as a gesture of your appreciation for my having made it into work, you could ask TfL to make arrangements to refund the cost of my Travelcard for that day. At an annual price of £1,136, I calculate the refund due to be £3.11. The record number of the Oyster Card which carries the Travelcard is 05xxxxxxxxx3. Should you wish, I would be happy to provide an Oyster usage printout and clocking-in records from my place of work. I am sure you will be able to reclaim the portion of the £3.11 that will have gone to the National Rail franchisees from them.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Political Animal

Hey, it’s a cheap stunt (at £3.11, very cheap), but equity is awfully close to The Animal’s heart. I’ll keep you updated, shall I?



  1. Yes, do.

    Btw, what’s a Gold Record Card?


    Comment by Dave Cole — February 4, 2009 @ 11:57 pm | Reply

    • I’d like to say it provides a record of the soaring wealth that is represented by my large stocks of gold bullion. Unfortunately, rather more prosaically it’s a card you are entitled to if you buy a full-rate annual travelcard (or any rail season ticket in the south east, I think) which gets you various perks on National Rail: 1/3 off rail travel in the south east, similarly reduced rates for anyone travelling with you at weekends and cheap first class upgrades. Quite handy now that the railways don’t think I’m ‘young’ any more.

      Comment by Political Animal — February 5, 2009 @ 9:52 am | Reply

  2. What a silly letter to the Mayor.

    With the widely reported collapse of public transport in London why is it such an issue when Boris decides to help those who needed to use a car to get to work? They will undoubtedly still pay penal parking charges and the cost of running the vehicle so what is your problem?

    You chose to fight your way through on the residual public transport network; others maybe did not have that option or chose not to.

    Live with your decisions, don’t criticise others for making theirs.

    Comment by Peter Roberts — February 5, 2009 @ 10:33 am | Reply

    • Yes, it’s meant to be a silly letter, in response to his silly decision. I’m happy to live with my decision to use public transport, and wouldn’t have expected any particular recompense – after all, the system got me to work and home again eventually. But the Mayor didn’t say that the congestion charge suspension was as an apology for inconvenience, he said it was as a gesture of appreciation for getting into work. I’m afraid I can’t see why a car driver getting into work is any more worthy of appreciation than my getting into work: we both had it difficult. But myself and the many thousands of others who travelled by public transport aren’t getting any financial benefit for our fortitude and forbearance. Just asking for fairness and a level playing field of appreciation, that’s all. I wouldn’t want to think that Boris didn’t love me…

      Comment by Political Animal — February 5, 2009 @ 11:15 am | Reply

  3. Good luck 🙂 If you succeed I’ll be claiming mine too

    Comment by thelayoftheland — February 5, 2009 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  4. Good idea, I’m tempted to do the same…

    Comment by darryl853 — February 5, 2009 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  5. […] Political Animal is writing to Boris trying to get £3.11 refunded off his Travelcard before it goes to Southeastern […]

    Pingback by Some links to some good stuff « 853 — February 5, 2009 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

  6. “manually guided metal containers”

    Nice one.

    Comment by A casual observer — February 6, 2009 @ 11:51 am | Reply

  7. […] Tags: Boris Johnson, Greenwich, London Politics, Railways, Transport A confession: when the Animal wrote to the Mayor a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t really expect to get £3.11 back as a mark of appreciation […]

    Pingback by Snowday refunds: TfL responds « Confessions of a Political Animal — February 25, 2009 @ 11:11 pm | Reply

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