Boris Johnson will kill children


9:38 am - October 14th 2009

by Chris Dillow    


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Boris Johnson is threatening to kill some children and worsen the educational outcomes of many more.

The reason for this is straightforward. He intends to remove the western extension zone of the congestion charge, and delay phase three of the low emission zone, which would charge polluting vans more for entering London.

The effects of these will be to increase congestion and emissions of carbon and nitrogen oxide. Such emissions, however, are quite strongly associated with pre-natal health, as a new paper by Janet Currie and Reed Walker demonstrate.

They studied the impact of the introduction of E-Z Pass in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This system allows cars to travel onto toll roads without stopping to pay manually. They therefore greatly reduce congestion and emissions around the toll plazas.

Currie and Walker then compared the health of babies born within 2km of the plazas before and after the introduction of E-Z Pass to that of babies born near a highway but further away from the plazas; this is a difference in differences method. And they found that the introduction of E-Z Pass was associated with big reductions in both premature births and the incidence of low birth weight.

“Policies intended to curb traffic congestion can have significant health benefits” they conclude. But Johnson is refusing to implement such policies.

What’s this got to do with childhood death and education? Plenty. There’s evidence that premature babies are more likely to die in childhood, and that children with low birth weight are more likely to have low intelligence and do badly at school.

In this sense, Johnson is jeopardizing the lives and education of London’s children. It’s lucky for him that long-term statistical tendencies don’t carry much weight.

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About the author
Chris Dillow is a regular contributor and former City economist, now an economics writer. He is also the author of The End of Politics: New Labour and the Folly of Managerialism. Also at: Stumbling and Mumbling
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Environment ,Humour ,London Mayor ,Transport

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Reader comments


One might almost describe this piece as Daily Mail-like in its hysteria.

One might almost describe this piece as Daily Mail-like in its hysteria.

Unless one is familiar with Chris’s style and appreciate that he’s quite deliberately using a provocative opening argument to drive home a typically considered and subtle point.

Isn’t Boris simply doing what the majority of people who were consulted about the western extension wanted in the first place – i.e no congestion charge?

“Considered and subtle” – I hardly think so as by the same logic Brown is killing children and worsening the educational outcome of anyone who lives near heathrow by not closing it down. In fact by this logic shouldn’t he be banning any significant volume of vehicular traffic from going anywhere near a child?

It seems not to be widely appreciated that the rationale for road pricing was developed Alan Walters, who went on to become Mrs Thatcher’s personal economic adviser. Amongst other texts, he was the author of:

Track Costs and Motor Taxation, Journal of Industrial Economics (1954), The Theory and Measurement of Private and Social Cost of Highway Congestion, Econometrica (1961), and The Economics of Road User Charges (John Hopkins University Press, 1969).

If – following the author’s logic – Boris will be killing children (by removing the western extension), then Ken Livingstone has actually killed children in the deprived east end by not having chosen to extend the zone in that direction. Ken chose to protect the children of Kensington & Chelsea rather than the children of Tower Hamlets – Boris is equalising the position.

Ridiculous article.

Indeed, anyone who gets on a bus, or gets in a car, or buys products that aren’t local and carried to the store by hand or bicycle…you’re killing babies, I hope you feel good about yourself.

Pathetic article based on a misconception that the congestion charge and low emissions zone actually reduce congestion. They’re just taxes.

You’re missing the point, people.
The point is that traffic does jeopardize lives and educational attainment. But we tolerate it because the benefits of moving people around London (albeit slowly) outweigh these costs. Yes, Livingstone and Brown did/do kill children too.
The question is: do BoJo’s policies of tolerating higher emissions make sense in these utilitarian terms?
To have a hope of answering this, we must first get an idea of what the costs and benefits are – hence my post.
And I’ll not apologise for the sensationalist headline; there are too many pompous twats who try to look sober, thoughtful and judicious in an effort to hide the fact that they haven’t a worthwhile thought in their head.

9. David Chiverton

No-one has ever explained to me why the Congestion Charge was never extended eastwards. Could someone on this page enlighten me?

Every time you don’t wash your hands, God kills a kitten.

You’re missing the point, people.

If many people are missing the point it may have something to do with the way in which the article is written.

Just sayin…

“And I’ll not apologise for the sensationalist headline; there are too many pompous twats who try to look sober, thoughtful and judicious in an effort to hide the fact that they haven’t a worthwhile thought in their head.”

You don’t get much more pompous than that.

The right would never use rhetoric about killing children, would they?

Abit over the top, true though it may be

”No-one has ever explained to me why the Congestion Charge was never extended eastwards. Could someone on this page enlighten me?”

Because people in the west are rich and vote tory, those in the east are poor and vote labour. For real stupidity, you should see the queues into the Elephant in the evening when the CC ends. All those cars just sitting their emitting. Luckily for me, I know the ratruns throught the Aylesbury and Borough.

@8 “misconception that the congestion charge and low emissions zone actually reduce congestion”

The joke – or tragedy – now is that twerps like Toby123 are running London, and getting their own way.

The congestion charge western extension has reduced the number of vehicles driving into Kensington by something like 30,000 vehicles daily. Let’s see what happens to congestion levels when the £8 charge is removed and those 30,000 vehicles return.

Meanwhile, funnily enough, the purpose of a low emissions zone is to reduce pollution, not congestion. My windowsill in London is caked with a fine diesel dust grime. I hate the fact that that’s what went into my babies’ lungs from birth. Anything that can be done to reduce that should be done, as soon as possible.

17. Dick the Prick

I’m very relaxed about taxing Labour voters until their pips squeek.

At last!! Someone’s finally thinking about the Children!

@17 – you could move further out you know

I don’t drive so I’ve probably killed far fewer children than Chris Dillow and can therefore take the moral highground when I describe this article as the work on an idiot.

Boris Johnson ate my hamster.

People who use hyperbole are WORSE THAN HITLER!!!

FACT!!!

23. David O'Keefe

“I don’t drive so I’ve probably killed far fewer children than Chris Dillow and can therefore take the moral highground when I describe this article as the work on an idiot.”

Oh dear shatterface, check before you click.

24. the a&e charge nurse

Experimental models suggest that exposure to excessive traffic fumes are a causative factor when it comes to certain forms of antisocial behaviour.

Apparently carbon emissions dampen the emotion-regulating ‘limbic system’ so that muggers (for example) feel virtually no remorse after they hit you over the head with a blunt object.

What does Johnno have to say about that, eh?

25. Shatterface

‘Oh dear shatterface, check before you click.’

Check what? Is Chris calling Johnson a child murderer or what? Is any serious point he might want to make buried under a shock headline that makes him look hysterical, or isn’t it?

More chippiness from Dillow.

Article should have been accompanied with an article of Bojo eating babies.

This trashy article deserves to be sent up.
Let’s see who can out-hyperbole Chriss Dillow.

Here is my attempt:

BARAK OBAMA DESERVES THE PEACE PRIZE

Any others?.

(please, Sunny don’t embarrass yourself further by replying to agree with this one)

Some suggested headlines for you.

Hague declares war on Europe.
Gove to make bullying compulsory.
Grayling gives rapists the green light.
Tories to torture benefit claimants.
Cameron announces genocide.

@20 “you could move further out you know”

Is that Boris’s official policy? I look forward to reading it on the leaflets of my friendly Tory “local campaigner”.

BTW, to avoid the effects of not bringing in the Low Emissions Zone would require you to move out of London altogether.

Oh. here’s another one:

‘A’ Level results improve for the 17th year running.

Can these humourless right-wingers not take a joke?

Aren’t most K&C residents opposed to extending the congestion zone westwards?

@29 Praguetory’s fourth one is in fact true – in the sense that there will be a lot of distress, damage to families, mental illness and suicide as a result of their policy.

@33 The question at issue is whether the congestion charge zone, which is already extended westwards, should be rolled back eastwards (or to Park Lane, if you prefer).

I think the scientific opinion polling shows residents split more evenly on the issue than the “vote” emerging from the public consultation exercise, but, yes broadly, Kensington residents have asked for congestion charging to stop.

And yes, there will be more congestion & pollution and yes, this will kill some kids.

By the way, do you believe that the central London boroughs belong only to their residents, or do you think that people who work and play there should get some kind of look in on democratic decisions on what to do with it?

Tim F re comment 32:

Excuse me, did I read it correctly? A contributor to Liberal Conspiracy accusing someone of being humourless and not able to take a joke.

Wow, I didn’t think that kind of irony was within your reach.

Good article, if only for having pissed off the usual array of tight arsed freaks anyway.

Incidently, the author has established a casual chain, based on scientific research, to support his bold headline statement. Can anybody who has objected actually offer any empirical counter arguments to the author’s hypothesis? Or are you content with wetting your nappies about unfair it all is to poor little Boris?

How about Kensington & Chelsea’s suicidal tendencies?

@34

I wouldn’t have ruled out PT’s second suggestion either had it said ‘buggering’ rather than ‘bullying’ and given how widely the term ‘war’ is now used colloquially (as in ‘war on drugs/terror/crime’) I definitely wouldn’t bet against his first suggestion appearing on the front page of a tabloid some time in the next 12-18 months.

39. the a&e charge nurse

[35] ‘there will be more congestion & pollution and yes, this will kill some kids’.
Are you sure about this, strategist?

Currie & Walker’s study concludes – “The results SUGGEST that traffic congestion is a significant contributor to poor health in affected infants”.

In other words results are merely ‘suggested’ while the outcome “poor health” could mean all things to all people – I could find no data on mortality rates cited by these authors.

I would imagine that exhaust fumes do not help certain respiratory conditions like asthma although I do not think they explain the international increase in rates of asthma or other allergic/hyper-sensitivity conditions.

As far as I know the teratogenic effects of exhaust fumes remain unquantified leaving aside claims made for lower birth weights and prematurity (which are usually multifactorial).

Chris if you think Boris Johnson is Herod then I daresay you also believe your good self to be Napoleon , or Jesus , but then I usually think lefties suffer from some such delusion so it may be me .

Cause and effect studies are the ‘po-faced twat’ of the evidential world so to speak .What other transport is used ? How does this square with the non impact of the congestion charge on traffic levels ? What is the economic drag and what effect might that eventually have…? Ask the right question and you get the desired answer.

When you little demons were desirous of turning the Pub into a empty tragic bistro , there was little mention of a comparison between the infinitesimal danger of passive smoking and such dare devil pursuits as ‘walking around in a town a bit ‘ Oh no no , because given a risk Landscape (aka sense of proportion) then people might have realised what rubbish it all was

.Furthermore you want to the liberty of the road user now a rather attached to my own ways , to quote…. ahem…Satan …

Will ye submit your necks, and choose to bend
The supple knee? Ye will not, if I trust
To know ye right, or if ye know yourselves
Natives and Sons of Heaven possessed before
By none, and, if not equal all yet free,

In the Conservative Party we often talk that way…Anyway such mirth making arguments as yours are often made for treating adults as children..” If it saves one child ….” How I laugh . The removal of every technology we have would in a sense save a child or two . Oddly the medieval age we would find ourselves in would not provide lives notable for being ‘Nice Sophisticated and Long’ , ( au contraire ) .

BONUS GAME

Play My Child Murder Game – The trick is to find some unremarkable activity and then show that in some sense it kills children, if in another sense it does not then all the more fun and jollity

1 Coughing – Bann it

2 Smoking in your own home – Bann it ( enforce with CCTV)

3 Drinking during pregnancy – Bann it assign Sure Start” Helper “ to ensure compliance ( After the unborn are citizens with rights although not eh eight to remain alive if it does not suit Harriet Harman )

4 Driving at all – Obviously to be banned

5 Failing to turn your entire income over the charity

6 Turning your entire income over to charity

7 School sport .. its absence

8 Pursuing hubristic spending plans that beggar the Nation ?

9 Bicycles … Not bicycles

Theristes

#36

I’m not a contributor, I just comment here. I didn’t think I needed to spell out my point any more simply than at #32, but here goes:

1. Right-wingers often accuse lefties of being humourless.

2. Yet, when lefties make jokes, or flippant exaggerations like in this case, right-wingers seize on them in a tedious, over-serious manner.

3. This is hypocritical.

I do hope you now get the point.

What Evah? re comment 37:

Dear oh dear. If that’s your idea of a good article then any counter arguments would be lost on you.

@41 Theristes: “How does this square with the non impact of the congestion charge on traffic levels ?”

Are you definitely claiming that the congestion charge has had no impact on congestion within the zone as a whole?

Are you denying that the western extension is reducing the number of vehicles entering Ken&Chel by about 30,000 per day?

Tim F re comment 42:

I would have got the point had there been one.

Item 1 – Correct.
Item 2 – Partly correct.
Item 3 – Wrong. It is because Liberal Conspiracy is so terse and devoid of satire that many people took the headline at face value. Just look at Chris Dillow’s half arsed, somewhat bitter, justification for the headline in comment 9 to show how lacking in humour it can be. It’s hardly ‘Duck Soup’.

45. Shatterface

‘Can these humourless right-wingers not take a joke?’

I’m neither humourless nor right-wing, and since the article itself contains no trace of irony or exaggeration for comic effect, I’m still looking for the joke.

A hysterical headline is just a hysterical headline unless it’s attached to a parodic article, and despite the atrocious level of argument in the text itself, I doubt the inanity is deliberate.

Swift, this isn’t.

‘Or are you content with wetting your nappies about unfair it all is to poor little Boris?’

So because I don’t think Boris Johnson aims to kill children, I must support him? I think he’s a tit, and I support the congestion charge (I don’t drive, I don’t live in London so it costs me nothing in any case) but if we try to make a rational case for that we now have to contend with this headline being quoted as evidence against us. It makes Clarkeson’s opinions look measured and considered.

If I called a soldier a baby-killer, with far more cause, my comment would be deleted.

Do you think your cause has been aided one iota by this article?

This is desperate stuff.

you aren’t right-wing shatterface? for all the shilling you do for the Tories day in and day out, you certainly could have fooled me.

chris And I’ll not apologise for the sensationalist headline; there are too many pompous twats who try to look sober, thoughtful and judicious in an effort to hide the fact that they haven’t a worthwhile thought in their head.

ha! excellent!

What Shatterface says.

And Sunny, if you read his contributions it’s pretty obvious he’s not right-wing, just anti-Labour. He’s wrong in that respect, IMO, but if you’re going to resort to lazy name-calling at least get it halfway right.

I happen to live in K&C and yes, we are opposed to the C-zone. K&C is known for having some of the country’s most expensive housing, but it also includes some of Britain’s poorest. The impact of the C-zone on those of us who don’t fall into the top 20% earnings bracket has been disproportionately negative in terms of accessing goods, services and social support, and I understand its effect on local business has also been damaging. I don’t drive, btw, and anyway the resident’s reduction doesn’t apply to visitors, workmen, deliveries et al. On top of which, I still see congestion here. 30,000 might seem like a lot of vehicles to a bumpkin, but it’s not that big of a reduction when you consider how many are left on a daily basis. And on top of which, we don’t live over 2km from a motorway, we’ve got the M/A40 thundering through on our doorstep, haven’t we?

So even if it was sensible to base a policy on the ill-defined, politically-spun “suggestions” of a single study, that doesn’t sound as if it’s comparing like for like, I’d hazard a guess that even with the C-charge, congestion levels would still be high enough to be harmful.

I think articles of such a low quality and pernicious manipulation as this one should be left where they belong, in the gutter press. Shame on the one who wrote it, and shame on LibCon for posting it.

49. the a&e charge nurse

[47] that’s a bit unfair, Sunny.

Does it make you a Tory if you challenge simplistic formulations?

Take infant prematurity (one of the key findings in the study) – how is possible to weigh the effects of exhaust emissions when all of the following are contributory factors as well?
Having delivered a previous premature baby, which puts you at a 20-40% of having another premature baby.
Multiple gestation pregnancies, such as twins, triplets, etc (risk increases with each additional fetus).
Placental abruptions and placenta previa are two causes of bleeding that can lead to a premature delivery.
Having too much (polyhydramnios) or too little (oligohydramnios) amniotic fluid.
Infections during pregnancy, especially if they spread to the uterus or placenta.
Diabetes.
High blood pressure.
Preeclampsia, which causes maternal high blood pressure, proteinuria (spilling protein in your urine), and swelling.
Maternal smoking or use of illicit drugs.
Maternal malnutrition, especially if it leads to poor weight gain during pregnancy.
Fibroids, an abnormally shaped uterus and cervical incompetence.
Becoming pregnant while being treated for infertility, having a previous abortion in the 2nd trimester, and not having prenatal care.
Problems with the fetus can also lead to a premature delivery, including infections, poor growth and certain birth defects.
http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/Newborn/premature_babies.html

By the way I’m not a Tory either.

50. Shatterface

‘And Sunny, if you read his contributions it’s pretty obvious he’s not right-wing, just anti-Labour. He’s wrong in that respect, IMO, but if you’re going to resort to lazy name-calling at least get it halfway right.’

What Sy says: I’m anti-Labour but I’ve consistantly criticised it from a Left-wing perspective on economic grounds, championing unions and shared ownership while criticising property rights, particularly intellectual property rights, and from Libertarian grounds on social issues. I pepper my comments with oblique references to Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, and have argued several times that anarchism is closer to the ideals of socialism than anything perpetrated by Marx and his authoritarian, Statist followers.

I’m also consistantly anti-censorship, which you can’t seam to distinguish this from supporting the opinions I believe people have a right to express. How you reconcile my apparent ‘support’ for the BNP with my equal ‘support’ for Islamists and sado-masochists, I don’t know.

The reason I’m so critical of you is that you, more than any other poster on LibCon or Pickled Politics, reduce every subject you touch to flame wars with other bloggers, most of whom nobody reads, or your tedious attempt to smear the BBC as the propoganda wing of the BNP.

it’s pretty obvious he’s not right-wing, just anti-Labour.

oh please. Being anti-Labour doesn’t make it necessary that you suck up to Tories or criticise anything positive said about Labour as some sort of an apology to al-Qaeda.

I’ve consistantly criticised it from a Left-wing perspective on economic grounds

at which point ‘left’ now becomes totally impossible to define.

most of whom nobody reads,

No one forces you to read anything I write shatterface. All you ever do is troll these days. If you don’t like my subjects, or how I frame issues or who I choose to attack – then don’t read it. I’m happy with criticism – all you do is troll. You’re becoming a supposedly leftwing version of chavscum.

Being anti-Labour doesn’t make it necessary that you suck up to Tories

Can you show me where he’s done that? Actual sucking up to Tories, I mean, not making anti-Labour digs on posts about Tories being tossers.

Look, although I generally think Shatterface is one of the more interesting commenters here, I agree he’s been a little, well, trollish at times (esp. re. Tories EU partners); but if you’re gonna just dip into your dis-bag every time someone makes snarky comments maybe you could do with getting a bigger bag.

chavscum

Oh, well that’s a new one… but not a helpful one.

@49 Clarice: “30,000 might seem like a lot of vehicles to a bumpkin, but it’s not that big of a reduction when you consider how many are left on a daily basis.”

I’m not a bumpkin. But you’re in a muddle.

“The impact of the C-zone on those of us who don’t fall into the top 20% earnings bracket has been disproportionately negative in terms of accessing goods, services and social support, and I understand its effect on local business has also been damaging. I don’t drive, btw, and anyway the resident’s reduction doesn’t apply to visitors, workmen, deliveries et al. On top of which, I still see congestion here. …And on top of which, we don’t live over 2km from a motorway, we’ve got the M/A40 thundering through on our doorstep, haven’t we?

You are about to find out what difference those 30,000 vehicles are going to make. I hope you don’t rely on buses for getting around.

I do, some of the time, and the bus service in my part of town is going to suffer from this backwards step as they will all be stuck in jams in Kensington & Chelsea. Which pisses me off.

Our national government hasn’t introduced congestion charging anywhere at all, thus killing children up and down the country.

I hope you Labour voters are satisfied.

Shatterface is clearly left-wing. Even Lefties can be disenchanted with spin. Could someone take Sunny out for a beer – he seems to have been indoors for too long.

@ 54 Strategist

Well, I lived here long before the C-extension, so I say from experience that the 30,000 doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s a drop in the ocean. Bring it on.

If you really think the western extension has abolished traffic jams in K&C, I think you are the one in a muddle. There was no major improvement in the buses through here when the extension was introduced, so I don’t anticipate any major deterioration when it’s abolished, and I suspect you’ll have to find some other scapegoat for your bus-rage.

And even if you were right, I don’t think it’s correct to financially penalise large numbers of local residents and businesses just because *you’re* pissed off. It’s not a good argument, is it?


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