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Marina Kim

From @MarinaKim_: Let's face it. The middle classes are becoming litterbugs.

Marina Kim is a journalist working in London. Her website is www.marinakim.co.uk. Follow Marina on Twitter.

To litter or not to litter - that isn't a question

Screen shot 2013-07-23 at 07.45.41“Do not litter!” – should be the new eleventh commandment of drivers and their filthy passengers. The Lord is keeping an eye on you. Sinners will be reprimanded in a lengthy phone call.

At 75, Lord Selsdon, that very eagle-eyed man who spotted and consequently made calls to littering culprits, is old enough to get away with murder. Perhaps that is why he cared enough to do something about litter. This is your Big Society in action. Yes, he crossed the line by using his contacts to obtain private phone numbers – if true, that was rather naughty for a peer – but I like to think of him being like a strict schoolteacher, annoying us all for our own benefit.

This story to me isn't about phone calls or even new pointless laws which the police will have no resources to implement. It's about litter - and what our changing attitude to litter tells us about our society:

  • Littering has become a very middle-class thing to do. It is no longer just the louts. Don't believe me? Well, check out any SW train full of the well-heeled and the well-suited. Discarded latte cups, empty M&S bags and newspapers abound while bins, located near the exit, yearn for food but remain empty.
  • The Conservative peer Lord Marlesford proposed to fine people caught throwing rubbish out of a vehicle - and it is  thus obvious we are becoming very reliant on laws to regiment every aspect of our lives. Where has common sense and common decency gone? Society is fast losing its most powerful tool - the sense of shame, and hence its ability to self-regulate. If you make laws for everything you are treating people like children, and people then become like children. The spiral goes on.
  • We are afraid to reprimand anti-social behaviour. Would we do anything if we saw someone littering or leaving that cup on the train? No, most of us are either too scared or couldn't be bothered. 

The culture of putting rubbish in the bin is just not there. A very nice and incredibly polite guy called Sam explained to me the other day his reasons for leaving rubbish on the tube: “I feel it’s ok to leave a finished cup of coffee on the tube if I put it down on a surface. I won’t throw it away on the street, but it seems ok if it’s on a surface of some sort. Also, once the train reaches the depot there is a guy who goes around to pick up all the rubbish.”

So there we have it. It has become too acceptable to rely upon other people to look after you in society. Sam couldn’t quite answer when I asked him: “What about those commuters in between the time you got off and the final stop?”

Some say the absence of rubbish bins is partly to blame. But these incidents happen despite the presence of bins at some stations. In any case, generations before us would have taken their rubbish home with them. It is becoming a norm, part of our culture. Just as it is a norm to throw away cigarette butts on the pavement. You won’t see that in Germany or Switzerland! It’s just not culturally acceptable. We have fines in place but in practice they are never implemented. 

Others blame the arrival in recent years of free newspapers which the majority of us feel is ok, and even a moral duty to leave behind for the next commuter. Well, you do risk insulting a Labour-voter by leaving a Torygraph behind. Much safer to leave a neutral and free Evening Standard. But then these are the details… 

Jokes aside, respect for your fellow human being, not the laws, should define our daily interactions with each other. If anything, I am grateful to Lord Selsdon for highlighting this issue. His alleged methods aside, oh if only there were still more like him.

Barclays' Secret

The only thing the Barclays-supported bike hire scheme has convinced me to do is not to bank with Barclays. If they cannot get bike hire right, God forbid giving them my money.

The docking stations are often full past 5pm, and a tired commuter who has just cycled in this heat from Canary Wharf to Chelsea has to spend even more time and effort trying to locate a station with empty locks. In the morning, you have to try at least one or two bikes to finally tear off a lazy sod from its comfortable nest. No wonder it didn’t want to move, it is so heavy and clumsy that it’s embarrassed of its performance on the roads… But then again you won’t need a gym with such a serious workout for your legs.

What a waste of money. If they got it right (plus provided enough safe cycling routes) then many more people would have adopted a healthy cycling lifestyle. Perhaps there wouldn’t have been a need for a 100 per cent increase in price on the sly over the Christmas holidays this year. 

There I was in contempt of Barclays for not being able to get it right. But last week I stood corrected as it was revealed that the bank has not actually bankrolled the whole thing, only a sixth, and the rest, i.e. £11million per year, has been taken out of taxpayers’ purses. So, for a sixth of the cost Barclays got itself a pretty good advertising deal. Not such a bad bank after all.

Everything is clear now. Barclays bikes are run as all public sector companies are meant to be run: pretty useless, and nobody wants to take responsibility and correct it. I think I’ll walk instead.

Genius Boris

How else would you call a man who is about to persuade the Chinese to spend Chinese money to bring Chinese tourists to London? London desperately needs to increase its airport facilities to bring in business and tourists. Even the frogs get more Chinese big spenders than London does. If Boris pulls off building a new mega-airport on the Isle of Grain at someone else’s expense, even his most fierce critics would have to take hats off their bolding heads to this not-just-a-pretty-face Blondie.


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