LondonNet News Headlines
15/09/00
RAC: London Will Run Dry by Tonight
- Blair back in town as petrol crisis escalates

TONY BLAIR returns to London today after aborting a tour of the north of England in the wake of the nationwide crisis which is likely to see all petrol stations cleared of fuel in London by tonight.

"There is no doubt that garages in London will run dry by the end of the day," said Edmund King of leading motorist organisation the RAC.

A blockade by farmers, truck drivers and taxi drivers angry at the recent rise in petrol prices plus resultant panic buying by motorists have massively depleted fuel stocks. Blair could now be on the verge of calling on the army to relieve the blockades.

"Legitimate protest is one thing," said a spokesperson for the Prime Minister. "But we have to look at the disruption that is now being caused." Blair convened a Privy Council meeting yesterday, chaired by the Queen, the standard precursor to assuming emergency powers.

However, Blair will be loathe to send in the troops, despite vowing never to give in to the demands of the protestors for a cut in Britain's high fuel tax. A huge part of the much-vaunted Blairite political project was for his Labour Party to ditch traditional backers such as trades unions and the public sector in favour of an alliance with the kinds of small business interests of which truck companies and taxi drivers form a talismanic part.

Furthermore, the protestors enjoy significant support from large swathes of that mythical place known as middle-Britain, a conservative constituency whose backing is deemed vital in the run up to next years probable general election.

The likelihood is that the government will play a waiting game, hoping that public support shifts away from the blockaders as the inconvenient after effects of their actions become more and more clear. It is also likely that Blair and his top ministers will lean on oil companies, so far suspiciously meek, to take a much more pro-active role in the dispute. In marked contrast to their attitude when strikers or environmental campaigners take action, police chiefs say they will only act against demonstrators if they receive complaints from the companies affected.

Meanwhile, the crisis has now spread to public transport with buses in London forced to make big diversions to avoid traffic jams caused by motorists queuing for petrol, and with train companies saying that their diesel stocks will run out by the end of the week if nothing is done. "We are monitoring the situation very carefully," said Transport for London executive Dave Wetzel.




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