BRENDAN O’NEILL: Sadiq Khan’s new names for London Overground lines are ludicrous, crass and shamelessly political

Ludicrous, crass, patronising and twee: Sadiq Khan‘s new names for London Overground lines are bad enough.

Worse still is what they signify.

For decades, the capital’s Tube lines have been scrupulously non-partisan, taking their names from geography and design: Northern, Central, District, Circle; or royalty: Victoria and the recently opened Elizabeth.

Rightly so. Everyone in London uses — and pays sharply rising costs for —the capital’s public transport, even if the network is increasingly plagued by strikes, delays and violence.

So the new names for the London Overground (which I have never had problems navigating) are not only embarrassing — they are shamelessly political. Khan gloated as much yesterday, crowing on the TV news: ‘Not everyone’s going to be happy!’

The new names for the London Overground are not only embarrassing — they are shamelessly political

The new names for the London Overground are not only embarrassing — they are shamelessly political

The man is irredeemable: revelling in the divisions he fosters between Londoners. This brigadier general in the culture war intends to pummel the enemy — that is, anyone who doesn’t share his view — with a fusillade of political correctness.

So, there’s the Lioness line, named after the England football squad who fought their way to last year’s women’s World Cup but lost in the final.

There’s the Suffragette line, cheering on a group that, however noble its stated aim of female enfranchisement, contained many terrorists, the sainted Emmeline Pankhurst among them. (Until the outbreak of the First World War, the Suffragettes mounted a two-year bombing and arson campaign across the UK that killed four and injured at least 24.) At a time of rising tensions in his own city, Khan might have thought twice about that one.

Inevitably, there’s the Windrush line, named for London’s Caribbean-origin communities. The Windrush arrivals made a fine contribution to this country — but mass immigration is surely the most pressing issue of our time, with polling showing that a clear majority of Britons want to see it reduced. This name ignores, even rebukes, such concerns.

There’s the Mildmay line, after a Shoreditch hospital that treated patients during the HIV/Aids crisis, while the Weaver line, yet again, hails ‘diverse migrant communities’ who worked in the cloth trade.

The Liberty line refers to the ‘independent’ borough of Havering — but it’s a bit rich of the nannying mayor to harp on about liberty when he banned ‘junk food’ ads on public transport, is waging a fanatical war against drivers and denounces anyone who disagrees with him as ‘far-Right’. Transport for London (TfL) has a £15 billion ‘black hole’ in its finances, but Khan found £6.3 million for this posturing rubbish.

Then again, what else would you expect from a man who, unlike his cycling predecessor Boris Johnson, eschews travelling with the hoi polloi himself, preferring instead to flit about by armoured car?

I’m amazed there isn’t a Non-Binary line, a Rejoin-the-EU line or perhaps a Free Pales-line. TfL claims the new names reflect ‘London’s diverse history’. They do the opposite. They mostly pay tribute to minorities — and in the process leave out the mainstream of London life. Why no line for the young men of London who died for their country? Or for the dockers, road-layers, firefighters and, for that matter, mothers who’ve kept this city going for centuries?

Khan might have called one branch the Churchill line, in honour of the man who led Britain to victory after the horrors of the Blitz. But no, compromise is beneath him.

Last year, for example, it was revealed that an official mayoral document, A City For All Londoners, warned against using images of white families in PR campaigns because such people do not reflect ‘real London’.

Or witness the mayor’s bizarre campaign to change ‘problematic’ street names. In 2020, in the wake of the frenzied George Floyd protests, he launched a Commission For Diversity In The Public Realm to erase ‘outdated’ addresses and replace them with City Hall-approved alternatives. Sure enough, Tottenham’s Black Boy Lane was rechristened La Rose Lane in memory of a local black activist named John La Rose. What a shame the man’s family called the move ‘tokenistic’ and stressed: ‘He would have hated it.’

Or take Khan’s hijacking of the New Year fireworks. Themes this year included immigration, Windrush, gay marriage and the collapsing NHS… change the record, man!

I’m starting to think — not least with Labour so ahead in the polls — that the woke dictatorship is increasingly inescapable. Every aspect of life, even a simple train journey, is being ruthlessly politicised by an elite that believes the little people need to be re-educated.

Emperor Khan is more comfortable dispensing ideology than fixing his city’s escalating problems — from knife crime to anti-social behaviour, High Street decline, transport delays and the rest.

This mini-Nero must go — and take his silly stunts with him.

  • Brendan O’Neill is Spiked magazine’s Chief Political Writer 

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