"In every war, their are unintended casualties". That was the response of my Father when I asked him about what we now call the collateral damage of the RAF bombing raids in which he particpated as an RAF pilot. His view was that the bombing campaign was necessary to end the evil NAZI regime of Hitler and that there was no way this could be achieved without some level of collateral damage.
In the case of the war against, Hitler, I have to agree that the stakes were high enough to suspend some of our normal sense of morality. I am not sure the carpet bombing of German cities was the right thing to do either morally or strategically, but I can see why the pilots who executed the raids felt that they were doing the right thing at the time.
But what about battles and wars where there is not such an overarching purpose? What about the collateral damage caused by decisions which are purely made to score a few political points with a particular small subset of voters for a particular party? Well the devastating effects of the car friendly policies were dramatically brought home to me in a conversation with an elderly neighbour yesterday. We were chatting over the garden fence and I happened to mention the fact that none of our neighbours seemed to be keeping cats anymore. Just a few years ago, the road was full of them. On a sunny morning, you'd see at least half a dozen sunning themselves in front gardens as you walked up Millway. One of our neighbours, Bob had a lovely old moggie called Sparky, who lived to the ripe old age of 23. So has the population of Barnet turned against moggies?
Sadly my old neighbour explained that there was a far more mundane explanation. "Since the council ripped out the road humps in Millway, all of the cats have been run over". Wheras cars would pootle up and down at 20-30mph, now cars zoom up and down at 50-60mph. Even the most cautious cat cannot cross the road in safety with cars travelling at these speeds on narrow suburban roads, lined with cars. He is a cat lover and former cat owner, he said that he couldn't bring himself to get another one, having had two splattered since the humps were ripped out three years ago.
He said he'd actually spoken to a Tory Councillor who advised him to move if he wanted to keep a cat. He was told that Barnet Council wouldn't change its parking policy because a couple of cats had been run over. There is a big difference in policies between Barnet Tories and Labour on road safety. in the 12 years of Lib/Lab coalition, traffic calming measures were installed across Barnet and the roads started to become far safer. Accidents rates in Barnet dropped faster than elsewhere in London. The Tories got in at the 2002 Council elections and set about reversing the policy, making the borough friendly towards speeding motorists. Barnets accident rates are once again amongst the highest in London. Sadly there are no statistics about how many cats have been run over. All we can see is that ratruns and cut throughs such as Millway, where I live are now cat free zones.
If you are a cat lover and a Tory knocks on your door, asking for your vote, you may wish to ask them their views on the collateral damage which their policies have inflicted on the moggies of Barnet.
Here is a video of Pussycat singing Missisipi, this is about the only place you'll see a pussycat, if like me you live on one of Barnets rat runs these days !