So we now know how many people don't give a f**k about the environment.
Ok, I am over simplifying. Some of those near 1.7 million who have signed the anti-road-pricing petition have signed because they have been led to believe it will mean more taxation and no benefits when in fact it will either be revenue neutral reducing fuel duty etc or raise money for public transport and other public services that we all benefit from.
Any survey that asks if people want to pay more tax and doesn't explain what for, will not surprisingly elicit overwhelming opposition to taxation.
Equally of course, any survey that asks if people want more and better public services and doesn't mention tax rises will not surprisingly elicit overwhelming support for more public services.
A lot of these opponents of road-pricing are just die-hard opponents of a Labour government and would oppose a minimum wage if it was under a Labour government (what? there is one and they do oppose it!).
Of course there are many more people, who have been persuaded by the right wing press that 'the government' is a bad thing per-se. (The number of opponents of anything who now just say 'the government' with a smug look on their face like they have said something clever is getting ridiculous).
I will say this again and again until I am red in the face. 'The government' is a reflection of us, it may be a distorted reflection (depending on how fair our constitution, electoral system and media are) but it is still essentially a reflection. But more than this 'the government' is overwhelmingly a good thing. If we get ill, we generally have decent universal healthcare (the 18th best in the world) and even some social support, if we lose our jobs - 'the government' provides us with financial help and services, if we go to the library or museum, use public transport, use the roads, schools, in fact pretty much anything, it has been subsidised in one way or the other by 'the government'. And contrary to what people say, 'the goverment' generally have the interests of society at heart - protecting us from crime and other dangers (even Tory governments).
All this is obvious, but sometimes I think that people forget this basic fact. When somebody sneers about paying money to 'the government' they forget that anybody on the average wage of £23,000 or less gets fantastic value for money from the money that goes to 'the government' i.e taxation. There is no way that a 'free market' could provide the poorest half of the population with the level of health, social and educational services etc that they receive from 'the government' - well not for an amount that they could actually afford. The poorer you are, pretty much the higher the public spending the better and we are still one of the lowest taxed countries in Europe. Historically Gordon Brown is no more tax and spend than Margaret Thatcher at her height in 1987 (around 40% GDP) and nobody describes Thatcher as tax and spend.
When the right are not directly arguing that public services are a bad thing, they try another tack and try to persuade us that they are so wasteful that they are not any good.
Even if we accepted that public services are not as efficiently run as private services (and this is far from the case as healthcare in the US shows), the vast percentage of public expenditure goes on front line services that improve people's lives. For example according to WHO, we are 26th in expenditure on healthcare but 18th in overall healthcare outcomes. The US by contrast is 1st on expenditure but 37th on outcomes because their private system is so inefficient. Anyway, even if public service provision were undesirable, that is still not an argument against public spending because the public spending can be provided through private companies. The alternative to public spending, is unco-ordinated individuals spending money in an even more inefficient way (and to paraphrase Gandhi) - 'in a futile desire to satisfy the greed of a few doesn't satisfy the need of most'.
Anyway, I digress, so back to road pricing.
Some of the commenters on Chris Dillow's site suggest we can just put taxes on petrol. But this punishes those who drive on empty roads as much as congested ones. Under road pricing we can target the busy roads and the busy times as well as just mileage and engine efficiency.
What about the civil liberties issues? Once again we are back to people not trusting 'the government'. These same people moan about the oyster card in London (which monitors movement just as much) but I've yet to hear one example of somebody being worse off as a result. Yet these same people don't give a f**k about the thousands 'murdered' on our roads every year by motorists. Indeed they revel in it with their campaigns in support of drivers who break the speed limits. They also don't care about the poorest children who suffer the most from having main roads nearby, with the pollution damaging their respiratory systems and the dangers of being killed or seriously injured. I suppose those who can afford to live in areas away from pollution and afford not to use public transport can insulate their children from the worst effects of their actions.
So if you are persuaded by this post go and sign up to the petition IN FAVOUR of road-pricing - maybe if a million or so could sign this, we could show that a significant number of us understand the issues and care about the environment we live in.
And finally to those who think these petitions a disaster for the government, then think on - the PM now has his chance to put forward his arguments in an email directly to some of his most vociferous opponents. The right-wing press might come to regret their support for this petition site. Personally I think it is already proving a massive success for the government, anything that improves communication between the government and the public and allows the right-wing press to have their propaganda challenged cannot be a bad thing.