Peter Hoskin

What can the Tories learn from Boris’s fare dilemma?

What can the Tories learn from Boris's fare dilemma?
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Oh dear.  Boris has just had to announce a bunch of inflation-busting fare increases for public transport in London.  From January, the congestion charge will be up by 25 percent, Oyster card fares will have 20p added to them, 7-day bus passes will cost just under £3 more – and so on, and so on.  To be fair, we shouldn't be too surprised at these kinds of hikes.  This is a recession, after all, and City Hall are currently struggling to deal with the black hole in the transport budget left over from the Livingstone days.  Boris himself sets out a persuasive defence of the measures in today's Evening Standard.

You wonder what on-looking Cameroons are making of it all.  Many Tories that I speak to think that Boris has done a decent enough job of implementing a waste-cutting agenda, and of showing that costs can be cut without negatively impacting services.  They welcome this, as it's another bit of supporting evidence for their own public spending programme.  But the developing brouhaha over these fare increases today hints at the difficulties the Tories may face to sell tax increases in government, even when considerable savings are being made via spending cuts.  How Boris deals with the problem, and how Londoners respond – whether they share in the "We're all in this together" spirit – could give the Tory leadership a few pointers for forthcoming battles.