Friday, December 20, 2013

The Thames Cable Car

click photo to enlarge
There has been something of a kerfuffle in the UK because a supposedly independent body has suggested that members of parliament should receive an 11% pay rise and the great majority of MPs think they deserve it. On the face of it the suggestion is reasonable since the parliamentarians haven't taken the pay awards that have been offered in past years and their pay is relatively less than it was. However, the proposal comes at a time when public sector workers are in the middle of a multiple years pay freeze (imposed by MPs), and when the pay of other sectors (the City, directors of companies, senior management excepted) is either declining, stagnant or barely rising. Opponents of the MPs' pay rise rightly point out that they are public sector workers and that unlike most other state employees they are able to take on a second job -  say, a nice non-executive directorship or "adviser" to a company - and that they are in a line of work for which there is no shortage of applicants.

I have a lot of sympathy with the opponents of the pay hike. To their persuasive arguments I would add that the MPs' suggestion that their pay should mirror and be linked to the pay rates of "other professionals" such as GPs (family doctors) is risible: our elected representatives are not professionals. They have no formal training for the job, need no qualifications to secure it and are not subject to regular scrutiny by a professional body, factors that distinguish most professional occupations from others. The government and opposition leaders who are rejecting the advice for the pay rise are doing so for public relations reasons, worrying how it would play with the electorate; it would be better if they refused as a matter of principle. I was reflecting on this when I rode on the Thames Cable Car recently. This £60 million plaything, subsidised by the budget under the authority of the mayor of London is a colossal waste of money, the most expensive cable car system in the world, and the sort of vanity project that you might expect from amateurs - which is what most politicians are. The current incumbent of the mayor's post is famous for his extra-mural jobs, and is reported to have little of the detailed knowledge needed by someone in his position. Moreover, he is widely believed to want the job of prime minister. It was a disaster for the capital when he became mayor of London; it would be a catastrophe for the country were he to achieve his greater ambition.

So, did I enjoy my ride on the cable car. I did! I'd rather it had never been built, but I'm not immune to the delights of being transported over the River Thames at maximum height of 295 feet (90 metres). Not least because it offers opportunities for some great photographs. It's just a pity that money was spent on this fairground project that currently runs at 10% or so of capacity, rather than the much needed pedestrian and cyclist bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf that has been suggested by Sustrans.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 21.5mm (58mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/1250 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On