Opinion with Jane Wenham-Jones: One year in office for Boris, a bit of free parking and that menthol cigarettes ban

Parking charges Photo Chris Constantine

So BORIS has been in Downing Street for a year today. Photos from July 24, 2019, show him jabbing a finger in the air, while declaring that the time had come to “change this country for the better.”

Since then, he has of course prorogued parliament to get his own way, won an 80-seat majority by repeating “Get Brexit done” 786,000 times, taken us out of the EU without much hope of the “new deal, a better deal” that he promised – God help us, (the pound has still not recovered against the Euro since the first disastrous days after the referendum); been in hospital with Covid 19, and become a father for at least the sixth time.

What he hasn’t done is make hospital parking free. Although rumours claim he once wanted to adopt this as a policy but was talked out of it by Matt Hancock. Now there’s a thing, you might well say, except that when Mr Hancock claims such a move would cause a harmful shortage of spaces for patients, he is probably right.

I find the Health Secretary as annoying as the next woman, but I discovered long ago that the subject of paid parking is a tricky one.

Of course it is utterly disgraceful that it should cost NHS workers to go to work – I had no idea, pre-Covid, that this even happened – and the free spaces they enjoy now should certainly be continued. But if you make it free for everyone, then I can see how this could cause problems too.

Long ago, I wrote an opinion piece, asserting that parking should be free in Broadstairs High Street and Northdown Road and other popular retail spots, to increase the footfall to the shops. Someone wrote to me pronto, to calmly point out that the free spaces would immediately be filled by the shops’ workers or those who lived in the surrounding roads, and there would be nowhere for the “shoppers” to park at all.

Suitably chastened, I would now query why the first half-hour can’t be free? Long enough to pop hither for a loaf or a pound of parsnips, and to collect the dry-cleaning, but not so long one can dump the car and disappear with abandon for a five-hour lunch.

Surely it would not be beyond the wit of man to come up with a similar plan for hospital forecourts?

You can currently stay 20 minutes after passing through the barrier at QEQM before being charged – sufficient time to drive round four times looking for that elusive space, wait five minutes for someone who shouldn’t be driving to attempt to manoeuvre a four-by-four, and then queue for the privilege of using the machine. Which isn’t much use to anyone.

What could be, is an extension of that to forty minutes.  And a system whereby someone like me – who can afford to pay for a ticket while I have my dodgy elbow looked at or I visit a pal after her hysterectomy –  is expected to cough up, while the pensioner who wants to visit her husband daily for the three weeks he’s bedridden, or the patient on chemotherapy, does not.  A small slip of paper could be issued for the windscreens of those known to be on low incomes or with long-term health conditions.  Preventing the chancers from clogging up a free space for hours while they go to the pub, or take their children to the beach.

Nigel Farage in his (mercifully unsuccessful) campaign to represent South Thanet, talked of hospital parking being free. It made me cross at the time because I knew it wasn’t in his gift. It’s no surprise to realise now, that he hadn’t thought it through either.

ANOTHER move that had totally passed me by was the prohibition of menthol cigarettes which came into effect in May of this year. The friend who informed me  was scathing about the ban, claiming it wouldn’t make any difference to whether someone smoked or not.

Deborah Arnott, however, of Action on Smoking and Health, put the view that “research shows that menthol in cigarettes makes it easier for children to try smoking and to go on to become addicted smokers.”

I have to say, I’m with Deborah.

I tried my first menthol cigarette at a shockingly young age, and when, later,  the good chum I puffed with, instructed me bossily (yes Karen H, it was you!) that I wasn’t inhaling properly I stood in front of a mirror aged sixteen and practised till I got it right. My nicotine-partner got bored with smoking a few months later, and has never indulged since, while I spent the next 15 years spot-welded to a packet of Consulate, or St Moritz, or any sort of fag with a minty twist. Being pregnant eventually saved me from myself, but since I could never bear “ordinary” cigarettes, I do wonder if there’d not been menthol ones, if I’d ever have started in the first place.



  1. Jane, whilst I understand you don’t like Boris Johnson, he won an eighty seat majority by our democratic system. Perhaps if the opposition hadn’t been so extreme and more electable then the outcome would have been different.
    He tried to prorogue parliament but was overruled and parliament had to return.
    Yes, it’s been an eventful year but you sound very petulant in your comments. Nor do I think it is necessary to say he became a father for a sixth time. If you said that against other people you would be criticised.
    I’ve just checked and you can still get a weekly parking ticket at QEQM for £12.

    • Jane you left out Dominic Johnson’s pledge, or was it Boris Cummings, I get those two mixed up, to solve the Social Care problem! This still means that those people who have property or savings in excess of £23,250 must pay for their Care, but those who don’t have either will have it paid for out of our taxes! So someone in say a Care home having to pay for their care, usually about £700 to £1000 a week, could have someone in the next bedroom having the same care for free! Where is the justice in that!

      Similarly over 75’s will no longer get a free TV license as from 1st August, but if someone is on Pension Credit they will get it for free. This means those people paying for their TV license, are subsidising people on Pension Credit, where is the justice in that? Blustering bumbling Boris couldn’t run a bath!

  2. Poor old Boris elected to do a very difficult job , and who could have envisaged that along would come covid 19 .I doubt anyone least of all the labour party could have been more effective keep going bono I am right behind you.

    • Here here Richard. All the lefties seem to do these days is moan about Brexit and Boris rather than move forward and come up with constructive ways to make our country a better place. A very difficult time and as you said I’d like to see anyone do better. It’s very easy to sit there and criticise. Perhaps try walking a mile in his moccasins before preaching !

  3. I’m not so sure Jane that you’re not a Johnson supported. I haven’t detected any left wing views creeping into your journals! Lucky the Torys have such a huge majority because they have made a big mess of managing the Covid crisis. Now it’s the economy at all cost, contradicting all previous health messages and – I think have you have noted before – giving out messages which are so confusing that everyone just makes up their own minds. Green economy- how far are we from that? Nothing learnt – not even about parking charges.

    • Oh and Labour would have done better? Fortunately we won’t know if that’s the case.
      No doubt they would still be putting a motion to conference about it rather than doing something.
      Although, Keir Starmer has a bit more about him than the last leader.

      • It’s of no consequence if Labour could have done better.
        It is the tories that have been at the helm for more than 10 years. There’s absolutely no doubt who’s responsible for the mess we’re in.
        And under Bungling Boris, it’s going to get worse. I dread the new year when we’ll be out of Europe and desperately, desperately trying to knock up some sort of trade agreements with anyone who’ll have us.

  4. Jane I have worked in the NHS 40 and a bit years both in Kent and London. We never used to have car parking fees for staff or patients, in the London hospitals we were issued with a disc to show we were staff, relatives could obtain a dated disc of one week / two week or longer. It worked well for all as well as out patients.
    Boris Johnson got an 80 seat majority ( now 79) Due to the labour leadership being so bad and of course Boris like the rest of us wanted Brexit sorted once and for all. The referendum had been held and the majority was for out of the EU
    I actually voted to stay in, however out was the decision so out it is. That’s what has made me so mad about Manston Airport both our MPs made it very clear in the run up to the general election that they supported the reopening of Manston Airport. The DCO was approved however then the likes of Jenny Dawes and her narrow minded friends are now using £10,000 of taxpayers money to try and delay the reopening of the airport.

    • Well said Ann.
      I too voted to remain but respect the vote.
      As for TDC, I was so annoyed that the day after pledging £10k to oppose Manston, they post an article saying they have a large budget shortfall.

      • I dont believe I’m reading this.
        It’s not TDC which is pledging money to support the JR, it’s RTC.
        It scares me to think that people who have such a slender grasp of what’s going on actually have the vote.
        Boris got in because vast numbers of clueless people in the North East thought that by voting for Boris they’d all will the National Lottery. Instead of which, in anticipation of Brexit, Nissan is closing its Sunderland factory.

        • I stand corrected…yes RTC, Andrew but there’s no need to move rude.
          Wonder why the red wall fell? Look at Labour’s campaign with disastrous Brexit policy and hard left leader who was hated on the doorstep.

    • Why has the SoSfT overturned a very well-founded recommendation by a panel of experts not to grant RSP a DCO? Why should local residents not want to try to overturn a bizarre decision which would cause a great deal of damage to this area and its residents, not omitting the people who want an airport?

      Two thirds of the electorate did not vote for Brexit- so no, Ann, it was only a small majority of those who actually voted who voted for Brexit.

    • Exactly! Only 37% of the electorate voted to leave the EU (do the sums) and it was a Tory cock up that allowed that to happen! In most grown countries it would take at least 66% of any vote to change a constitution, so why was that not agreed before the vote?

      Incidentally, why can’t nurses (and possibly some visitors/patients) get a refund on their parking tickets? All they would have to do is retain the ticket, and cash it in later!

    • I am not a member of any political party, but I reserve the right to be critical of any of them if necessary! I am a member of the Electoral Reform society though, and only 37% voted to leave the EU! Proof: 52% of the electorate voted to leave, but the turnout was only 72%, so 52% of 72% is 37%, thats hardly democratic! Any grown up country would have set the bar at 66% of the vote to change the constitution, but the Tories didn’t, so its another fine mess they have got us all in!

  5. Sandra, I used to vote Labour, however when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader and Useless MAY was the leader of the conservatives and the Brexit was going on and on, I like millions of others were in despair of the mess that useless Cameron had bestowed on the U.K. There was no way I wanted to see Diane Abbott as home secretary not after we had, already had useless one in MAY as Home Secretary. Boris only got his 80 majority because he said he would honour the referendum result and “Get Brexit Done” and the fact Labour leadership looked so bad. I have never been a brainwashed or should I say brainless voter who votes for a Political party regardless as to how bad they are like the Tories are inclined to do. That’s all history now we are where we are Boris Johnson has a majority of 79 ( it was 80 but he threw one MP out of the party) Re: Manston Airport if civic stirrer Dawes had been so sure of herself at the last general election why did she not stand as a candidate on her soap box for the anti Manston airport vote ? Because she knew she would have wasted her deposit that’s why. So she is now sponging off the local taxpayers to help her fight her pathetic little battle. I voted like the majority of voters for Mckinley because he was pro Manston. The local labour crowd are a total disgrace they do not want anyone to get a well paid jobs or a major employer to come into this area they love to see the food banks and squalor that’s ammunition to Labour so they can say how bad the Conservatives are to force people into poverty. Facing Now us is the Brexit mess to blow up in our faces and the Covid 19 lurking in the background. TDC are looking for sites so the so-called “travellers” Gip-sys can be based to plan their next job in peace., rather than being moved on from illegal parking. After yesterday’s court case of the three travellers found guilty of “manslaughter “ of a young police officer I suggest TDC do not want to look too hard to find an unsuitable location.

    • Why should anyone bother standing on a pro- or anti-airport ticket when the thing was to be decided by the Planning Inspectorate?

      It is not Jenny Dawes’ battle, it is not a battle, it is a serious attempt to save Ramsgate from what a busy airport nearby would bring upon it.

  6. Couldn’t agree more, Ann. You make very good points.
    We need investment in the area and good quality jobs and regeneration of the airport is one option.
    I find it very hard to believe that the airport would affect tourism. The area was a lot more prosperous and better looking when planes flew over the town.
    I do not agree with the decision to fund the judicial review into the airport.

    • Since the airport closed, income from tourism has increased by 10’s millions.
      When the airport was open, it was losing 100’s millions.

    • I submitted evidence to the Planning Inquiry showing Aircraft will fly over Ramsgate Harbour at less than 300 meters high, 250 meters along Ramsgate High Street, and 200 meters behind the ASDA store, and Ellington Park. Just 150 meters over St Lawrence, and 100 meters over Nethercpurt , two an hour! This will destroy the tourist industry around the Harbour, devalue property and businesses, and the quality of life of thousands in the CT11 postal area! No doubt those in favour of reopening Manston are happy to sacrifice the lives of thousands this way, and don’t live in the CT11 postal area! Go to the Crowd Funding website to see that over £55,000 has been pledge for a Judicial Review to contest the reopening, in a littel more than a week!

  7. Donut of the week is awarded to the antis. Sweet move gaining a bung from RTC and then not telling them what is in pre action protocol now served on SoS.

    Tim at Cecil Towers is moodily saying “Connive wot moi?”

    Ann as ever in the running for donut of the week still confused about a one year gap in a top civil servants employment history 2013/14 when he was taking a Manston sabbatical But this week the antis have it the antis have it.

    • Thank goodness it is a new donut award week. Firmly in running are the dubious duo Rog and Tony the RSP Duet. Have they indeed got thus far only to find they cannot start work without Environment Agency consent?

      Is Rog bleating, within perimeters political, “But we can’t afford a pwoper environmental pwotection job”

      And is RSP stymied “Do it properly or don’t do it at all”

      Just a rumour at present. Donut awards inquiry continues

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