Shaun Bailey's 'Manifesto for London' event discussed plans to slash free travel for older Londoners
LONDON — The Conservatives discussed plans to take free travel away from hundreds of thousands of pensioners and scrap a popular discount on bus travel, at a meeting of London Tories held for their mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey at their party conference in Birmingham this month.
The “Manifesto for London” event was introduced by Bailey, who is standing against Labour’s Sadiq Khan in 2020, and chaired by his Conservative colleague on the London Assembly, Andrew Boff.
Delegates discussed plans to remove free travel from millions of Londoners and extend the Tube to “s***hole” parts of London, plus a striking proposal to introduce a fleet of “autonomous” self-driving buses across the capital.
Among the policy ideas discussed at the event arranged by Conservatives on the London Assembly were:
Raising the Freedom Pass age to 75
Londoners aged 56 and over currently benefit from free travel on the Tube and buses under the Freedom Pass scheme, funded by London councils. However, delegates at the event suggested that the age after which Londoners can qualify for the pass should be raised to 75, with one delegate describing it as a “bribe” for older people.
“The freedom pass was introduced to basically bribe old people and I think quite a lot of 56-75 could probably afford it anyway,” they said. However, other delegates argued that doing so would be hugely unpopular with London voters.
Scrapping the hopper bus fare
When Khan became Mayor of London he introduced a new system by which Londoners are allowed to make unlimited journeys on buses and trams within one hour for the cost of one single fare. However, delegates at the Conservative conference discussed scrapping the so-called “hopper” discount, as “it costs a lot of money.” Other Conservative delegates in the room argued against the move, however, suggesting that Khan’s policy had proved popular with Londoners.
Extend the Tube to ‘s***hole’ parts of London
Another policy put forward by London Conservatives at the event was to extend the London Underground to Thamesmead, a deprived and isolated part of southeast London. One delegate proposing the idea said that it should be done because “Thamesmead is a s***hole so it can’t get any worse anyway.”
However, other delegates in the room disagreed with the policy, with one suggesting that adding another branch to the Jubilee line would cause “chaos” as “there just isn’t the capacity to do it.”
‘Shaun Bailey’s Killer Buses’
One of the stranger ideas raised at the policy forum event was for a fleet of “autonomous” self-driving buses to be rolled out across the capital. This, one Conservative delegate argued, would be a natural successor to the so-called “Boris Bike” scheme introduced by former Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson.
“We had the ‘Boris Bike’ so now we could have the “Shaun Bailey Autonomous Bus,” they explained.
They argued that the buses would allow London to remove the influence of transport unions in the capital, because bus drivers would no longer be needed.
However, other delegates in the room worried that the new fleet of autonomous buses could cause a wave of fatalities on London’s roads.
“When cyclists and other road users end up dead under the wheels of the automated buses it would be known as ‘Shaun Bailey’s Killer Buses,” the delegate commented.
‘Shaun alone will announce his policies’
Labour accused the Conservatives of plotting to make commuting more expensive for Londoners.
“Londoners know from bitter experience that the Tories increase TfL fares and make commuting more expensive whenever they are in power — fares went up by 42 per cent when Boris Johnson was Mayor,” Labour MP Andy Slaughter told Business Insider.
“So no one will be surprised that the London Tory Party now want to scrap the unlimited Hopper bus fare and the Freedom Pass. This shows exactly why we need to keep Sadiq Khan as Mayor — he’s frozen TfL fares for four years and introduced the Hopper fare in the first place.”
However, the Conservative party dismissed any suggestion that Bailey would take up the plans.
“This was clearly an open forum for delegates to discuss policy ideas,” a Conservative spokesperson told Business Insider.
“They have not been adopted by Shaun, and to suggest otherwise is derisory. Shaun alone will announce his policies in due course over the coming 18 months.
“He will be listening to all Londoners about their concerns and priorities and what we need to do to tackle the issues of crime, housing and transport, where Londoners are being badly let down by Sadiq Khan.”
Bailey under pressure to apologise for ‘single mum’ comments
Bailey has come under pressure from the Labour party in recent days to apologise for a string of offensive comments and articles he made in the past. On Sunday Business Insider revealed that Bailey had ;claimed that single mums in inner cities “deliberately become pregnant” in order to secure homes and benefits from the government.
In the comments, unearthed by Business Insider, he added: “They won’t be too careful about not becoming parents. In some cases, they will deliberately become pregnant – as they know that if they do, they will get a flat.”
He went on: “It is the same with benefits. These people are not stupid. If the state offers them money for doing something, they will do it. It is as simple as that.
Bailey wrote that the state needed to get away from the idea that it is “acceptable” to be a single mother.
Responding to the row over these comments and others in which he suggested that multiculturalism had turned parts of the country into “crime-riddled cesspool[s],” Bailey, who was 38 at the time of making his comments about single mums, told the Evening Standard on Tuesday that he had made the comments as “a young man still figuring out his world.”