Boris Johnson rails against the centralization of power that has caused the cost of government to rise like a rocket, saying the sensible way forward is to simplify and devolve.
In an article in The Daily Telegraph Boris Johnson admits — despite the economic rigours the population generally is suffering — to going ski-ing. He does claim in mitigation that it was a cut-price affair with, as he puts it, “home-made sandwiches for lunch, washed down with eau de robinet”.
It is not, he says, just that he loves ski-ing and is addicted to hurling himself down the slopes and that his children are quite keen. A collateral purpose drove him to take this vacation : journalistic research.
Having reported last year on a disturbing phenomenon sweeping the pistes, he wanted to see how it had developed : the news was not good.
He invites us to imagine a horror film called Tadpole Head “in which a weird cranial mutation is transmitted from person to person until thousands of formerly happy-go-lucky skiers were in its zombie-like thrall ; the hills crawling with the glistening black bonces of a new race of human scarabs.”
That, apparently, is what is happening at ski resorts all over Europe. The ski-helmet epidemic is out of control and hordes of would-be Darth Vaders have colonized the Alps. When he reported last year, however, about 35 to 40 per cent. were infected ; this year, he estimates, more like 50 per cent., perhaps more. He calls for a re-examination of the arguments — and the risks.
Whilst conceding that all have the right to wear and to have their children wear helmets, that those devoted to running a slalom course quickly amongst the trees would be wise to wear them, that light and durable helmets might offer confidence to those nervous of ski-ing, he repeats the opinion he gave last year : for a ski-er of moderate ability keeping to the pistes they are just not necessary.
Apart from anything else, ski-ing, with to-day’s safer bindings and boots, is the most beautiful way to enjoy the landscape ; why spoil it by hiding inside a lump of plastic ?
Boris also wonders whether those wearing helmets are a threat to those that choose not to, reminding us of the tragic accident at the start of 2009 involving German politician Dieter Althaus. He turned on to a run in the ‘wrong’ direction, colliding head-on with Beata Christandl. He, wearing a helmet, survived ; she died.
Cases of this kind, he continues, increase the pressure for a change in the law and insurance policies, making helmets obligatory for all. He doesn’t mind helmets’ being spread by fashion but objects strongly to compulsion ; not just because compulsion is offensive to the principles of liberty but because he believes the problem of politics in the last three decades has been legislation at the centre, where decisions ought to have been left to individuals and communities.
He points to the trouble the Coalition is facing trying to cut the bill for government. Councils across the land claim to be forced to cut libraries and other much loved public services, whilst preserving the posts of ‘equality officers’, ‘outreach officers’ and other occupants of the ‘non-jobs’ that have blossomed under Labour. “Why ?” he asks. “Because of all the ill thought out legislation about equalities and Heaven knows what emanating from Westminster and slavishly obeyed by local authorities. Although councils are not obliged to have libraries, they are obliged to have officers to count the number of bats and stag beetles. Is that really what their electorates want ?”
The centralisation of power, over-regulation and the meek acceptance of Whitehall diktat have massively pushed up the cost of government in this country ; the sensible way forward is to simplify and devolve.
And the only way to start on the path to long-term fiscal stability, he says, is with a thorough pruning of central legislation, hacking back the nonsense and letting people decide their own local priorities. Leave it to local authorities to decide about bat-counting officers, and leave it to the individual to decide about ski helmets.
Boris writes for The Daily Telegraph on Mondays.