27 May 2010

National Pride

The world cup football tournament will soon be upon us and already we're hearing of politically correct stances being taken by local authorities and the police that serve only to aggravate matters before a pig's bladder has even been kicked. Only yesterday did my local village shop look different to last week - Lincolnshire Police had requested the proprietor remove the St. George's Cross bunting as it could offend minority ethnics (they're discouraged from saying 'ethnic minority' now).

This spilt out into the bus industry recently. One of the few high-fliers to keep a transport blog is FirstGroup's Leon Daniels. Sure, anyone reading his online organ, hoping to get the juicy details of what really goes in within the largest transport operator in the UK, will be sorely disappointed, as Daniels keeps his blog to a relative much of a muchness.

He's been reasonably candid on a number of occasions, though, the latest being on Tuesday when he wrote about an incident that had occurred in the Potteries which involves a young lad and his mother alleging a Eastern European bus driver had thrown them off his bus for daring to wear an England t-shirt. The incident is still classified as being 'live', yet FirstGroup's UK Bus Commercial Director has chosen to detail it on his blog. Clearly, the company must be about as certain that they're in the clear as it is physically possible to be, for the incident to be released into the www.

Daniels goes through each of the allegations one at a time and manages to refute them all (no Eastern European driver was working any of the routes in the area at the time; while an incident did take place, it was resolved by passengers on the bus; no real witness has come forward etc etc etc). He goes on to quite rightly say that the company has no sympathy for passengers who clearly want to elicit compensation by providing a fictitious claim. He does seem, perhaps, more concerned about the 1,100-strong Facebook group containing 'extreme comments about what they would like to do with the driver'.

Facebook is becoming an ever-more powerful tool for bus and coach operators alike. It gets two prominent mentions by one of the most senior men in FirstGroup and while the driver involved in whatever went on must be very pleased to see his commercial director using every avenue possible to quash outlandish comments made against him, the move is pretty significant indeed. Generally, Facebook is used to positive effect, but there are occasions - as the incident in the Potteries proves - when the social networking site can provide a nasty sting in its tail.

Leaving aside the power wielded by Facebook, both incidents mentioned here are rooted in the fears the English have about race and diversity. On both occasions, absolutely nothing has been either proven or physically taken place. For as long as our own residents make allegations about race that end up being completely false, I suspect the police will continue to make seemingly bonkers decisions about the manner in which we display our national pride, which will serve only to infuriate residents more.

It's a vicious circle, from which the transport industry is not exempt, that sees our own population and institutions implicated.

Leon Daniels' blog entry

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