Political Promise

The best ideas are always heard first in the back of a cab

In Garry Lee on October 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Garry Lee had an unexpected, in-depth conversation with a taxi driver at 5am that reaffirmed his belief that everyone has a useful insight when it comes to politics.

As a cash-strapped graduate looking for a cheap, last-minute flight to London, I found myself in a taxi at 5am destined for Glasgow International Airport. Since I was at this point still half asleep, I didn’t have high expectations for the journey ahead. After a few attempts at small talk, I asked the driver what he thought, as someone with a lot of useful experience, about the proposed increase in the speed limit to 80mph on motorways. As a non-driver, I explained, I had little to base my opinions on in this area. Suddenly, the man came alive. He spoke at length and in depth about his frequent journeys to and from Spain, and his experience of their well-maintained motorways. By comparison, he described British roads as being poorly cared for, strapped of investment, and in his opinion, not fit for people to drive safely at the proposed higher speed. He described the ingenious system in France of a change in maximum speed limits determined by the weather (whether it was sunny or raining), something that I was not previously aware of. I’d certainly encourage the introduction of something similar in the UK.

At this point, the subject of the conversation changed. The driver went on to tell me of his experiences with the NHS, as a sufferer of a bowel condition similar to Crohn’s disease. He told me that after looking up the cost of his medication, he was gobsmacked at being regularly prescribed a 20 day dose of tablets costing £90 a time. The man seemed uneasy at the idea of not paying a prescription charge for such a high cost item. This conversation inspired the thought that encouraging patients to proactively research the cost of their own drugs, in an attempt to lower the overall cost of prescriptions to the NHS, might be worth exploring. Especially for those on prolonged treatments.

When we arrived at the airport, about 45 minutes later, I thanked the driver whose name I didn’t catch, made sure to leave a good tip, and furiously scribbled down the notes of this conversation in the airport lobby. I was so thankful that this man was so keen to share his experiences with me. It was a conversation that stayed with me for the duration of my trip. Since then, I’ve been reminded to engage in political discussions with everyone I can, if only to gain the kind of perspectives on issues I can’t take away from a newspaper or book.

Politics can often seem like such a closed process, but I think this experience shows that members of the public do have a great insight and perspective they can offer that would be of great benefit to policymakers. Just trying to find a way to encourage them to come forward should be our next step.

  1. Great article. Perhaps getting the opinions of cabbies is what the protesters mean by “the 99%”.

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