Did Philip Hammond MP Watch Too Much Thunderbirds As A Child?


What Philip Hammond MP would look like if he were a puppet and.......wait a minute..

Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for ‘Transport’, gave a speech this morning to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. In it he outlines very big plans. Very big plans indeed.

I used to love Thunderbirds when I was a child and I’m now positive Philip Hammond did too as it‘s the only way to explain his childish policies. Its futuristic World was one of bombastic visionary schemes – huge supersonic aircraft carrying thousands of passengers, Mega Atomic Power Stations, Pink Rolls Royce’s zooming along empty wide fast motorways. In Hammonds World we see Mega Super Fast High Speed Rail Links, Ultra Low Carbon cars zooming along efficient road infrastructure, all powered by Atomic Power Stations.

Dr Mayer Hillman in his brilliantly pragmatic book How We Can Save the Planet outlines how a popular misconception to global warming is that we can somehow develop our way out of the problem. That technology will save the day like some sort of International Rescue. Mr Hammond’s speech this morning contained the following,

 “…….. let’s not forget that over 80% of all journeys are undertaken by car and Britain’s roads represent our greatest investment in transport infrastructure. Clearly, while motoring was synonymous with carbon production, it couldn’t be a major part of Britain’s future transport plans.

But the idea that the only solution is to force people out of their cars is pessimistic, outdated, Labour dogma. This Government is supporting the ultra-low emissions technologies that will see the carbon output of cars plummet over the next two decades.

Drawing fuel, not from petrol pumps, but from an electricity grid which Chris Huhne is determined to make one of the greenest in Europe. The Coalition has signaled its commitment to de-carbonising motoring by confirming, ahead of the spending review, grants for R&D and generous consumer incentives for every ultra-low emission car sold.

Putting our trust in technology, and our country at the forefront of the green-motoring revolution. The first new-generation electric cars will appear on Britain’s roads early next year and the first volume British-built electric vehicles will roll off the production line in 2013.

So motoring can again become part of our future transport planning, as the greening of the car saves it from extinction and that means we can end Labour’s indiscriminate war on the motorist as we focus on the real enemies – carbon and congestion.”

These words are as astounding as they are absurd (and I’m sure many blogs today will be picking them apart) but the worst aspect of his speech is in what he didn’t say – You may be wondering where walking and cycling feature in all this. They are after all the most cost effective, clean, easily available forms of transport we have. The fact he made no reference to these transport modes at all in his speech (supposedly extolling the virtues of sustainable transport) is as telling as it should be alarming.

In an earlier blog post I discussed how the set up of Cycling England was flawed and its passing could be regarded as a good thing. However I wrote that in the hope that cycling would be brought back in-house within the DfT and receiving a more deserving share of the transport spend. Even if cycling does move back, the future looks very bleak indeed in the wake of such an obviously car-sick Government Department. The fact that walking and cycling improves the nation’s health, produces no carbon or noise pollution, allows people to engage with their surroundings and neighbourhoods and is the most effective way to get through towns and cities seems to be lost on dear Hammond. Also the fact that infrastructure is cheaper with a better rate of return. And that walking and cycling is more fun and the increased fitness makes you better in bed (that last bit is my opinion but I’m sure you’d all agree).

When Thunderbirds was created, it was a brave new World; the Apollo missions were under way, new materials were being discovered, soon one could fly from London to New York in three and a half hours – and look elegant puffing on a cigarette whilst you flew beyond the clouds. In Thunderbirds World you didn’t need to walk or cycle anywhere as technology could take you to wherever you wanted to go. That World has long gone in a plume of supercharged 4-star exhaust fumes but clearly left a mark on our dear Hammond who clearly loves all the science involved.

Which is why the Coalition cut funding for scientific development and research. Oh well, I’m sure the motoring lobby can step in to help. FAB!

10 thoughts on “Did Philip Hammond MP Watch Too Much Thunderbirds As A Child?”

  1. If you go back and look at thunderbirds again, you will see that most episodes are primarily related to inadequate assessment of systemic risks of the new technologies, and the consequences.

    Case in point, that atomic supersonic plane episode: thunderbirds get called in as passengers would die if you spent more than 6 hours in it. Ryanair could make you spend that long waiting for a takeoff slot and wouldn’t give you free drinks, let along emergency iodine tablets.

    Another: the out of control atomic jungle logging and road building machine. Something hammond would like, but again, its failure modes weren’t though through and International Rescue get pulled in to fix someone else’s engineering mistakes.

    It’s not a good example at all, as the recurrent theme is “all these things will fail badly”. As it turned out, there were other assumptions that were invalid “SST passenger travel is economic” and such like and these got in the way.

    1. Good points well made (and very promptly too). I was just trying to picture the high octane World in which Hammond’s brain must operate and International Rescue would hardly be saints in a modern sustainable context; To say that Tracy Island is an out of town development would be bordering on reckless understatement and Thunderbird 2 probably drained an oilfield as it waddled along to that elevated piece of runway.

      Maybe Hammond might say that it was lack of risk assessment and gung-ho James May attitude that got man to the moon in the first place. These days, he could claim, are so PC that Jackanory was probably cancelled because Bernard Cribbins refused to wear a high-viz tabard.

      I rambled there a bit. Apologies.

      1. -tracy island is discrete and does not have many hectares of parking. T2 is probably an atomic powered rocket so no oil, though the stumbling block -as with Project Pluto, the radioactive waste coming out the tail can be somewhat problematic.

        I’ve always felt that some of the baddies in bond films would be better of doing ski resorts that go underground in summer, retreating under a fake alpine lake or similar would be a far greater contribution to society than their evil plans. Instead we get Avoriaz and that place up Tourmalet. Again, though, risk assessment and health and safety controls get in the way of evil scientists plans.

      2. All the same, Tracy Island required massive energy consumption. Particularly if they used T2 for more menial tasks such as going to Asda. I bet there would have been serious cussing if they returned to find they’d forgotten to buy the kitchen bin liners or Brasso. Mind you, it wouldn’t have taken long for Tesco Express to show up in their local area.

        As far as Bond is concerned, I think we both know that Moonraker rips up any Sustainable Policy and Health & Safety rulebook. Having said that, I don’t believe the full potential was realised of harnessing kinetic energy from Roger Moore’s eyebrow movements. At least Bond villains were decent enough to show our intrepid secret agent around their facilties, allowing him to make a fairly good Health & Safety Assessment for best means of escape.

      3. Having checked the 1999 hardback M&S “The world of thunderbirds” book, I am please to note that tracy island has its own fusion reactor, and an atomic waste processing facility combined with a desalination plant. T1 & T2 are both fusion powered ram-jet systems, though, there’s the problem of emissions. You don’t want to rescue someone trapped in a giant burning shopping centre (yes, that was one episode), and leave the entire country uninhabitable afterwards.

        Regarding the brasso, T2 was capable of crossing the earth in under an hour, so you could do the shopping sprint in about 2h, however there is the issue of where do you park your T2. Perhaps there was a secret round town vehicle , thunderbird 7, which would be a small runabout for roundtown use, presumably with a disabled sticker borrowed off Jeff Tracy’s great-aunt. T2 would land by the edge of the city and T7 could nip in and park where it liked.

  2. Eeek! Watch out for some seriously high electricity bills coming soon, when people start wanting to use hundreds of units per day powering their cars… An electric kettle is a big household user of leccy at 2.5kW, a car needs more like 100kW : 40 kettles boiling for most of the time you’re travelling…

    Of course the humble bicycle, being ultra-lightweight and with a limited top speed, only needs a few hundred watts at the most.

    Mine’s a Mango velomobile, please!

  3. Our Mr Hammond set his stall out early on, declaring his love of zooming along empty roads in his Jag!

    What’s amazing with these ideas of a low carbon leccy cars is that they concentrate solely on the tailpipe – be that at the back of the vehicle or more recently at the power station – but neglect what goes into producing the cars themselves and disposing of them afterwards.

    A conventional car is filled with more material now that it was twenty years ago. Add a stonking big battery into the mix. Not pretty.

    SteveL’s Thunderbird analysis is inspired! I don’t think we should be dismissing ‘technology’ entirely though, just that it should be used more appropriately.

  4. Philip Hammond comments remind me of the sixties when the Dr Beaching axed most of the railway network on the grounds that they would make a fine off road cycle network “new technology” would solve our transport needs in the future and therefore we didn’t need speed money up grading the network. The talk then was of flying cars and personal helicopters. What is with the Tories that makes them so detached from reality?

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