Driving the election: which way should motorists vote tomorrow?

With tomorrow's general election likely to come down to the wire it is a somewhat bewildering that the votes of 43 million motorists have not been courted more vigorously by the three main parties.

There are certainly no shortages of issues to focus on either. Road tax costs, speed cameras, petrol prices, congestion, illegal parking fines, drink-driving limits and future road pricing initiatives are all factors which impact on our daily lives.

Of course even if they haven't been shouting about it, all the political parties have a view on the subject. In a grey area marked transport they have dropped hints, groped for common ground or even pledged a bright idea. So before you make your way to the ballot box tomorrow be sure to read our break down of the motoring manifesto.

Lest we forget, the current government has been in power since 1997. It would be hard to find anyone who believes the transport situation in the UK has improved in that time. Traffic congestion has gotten steadily worse, the price of petrol and road tax has rocketed and the nation has been forced to endure the prolific rise of the fixed and mobile speed camera.

Labour has certainly made no friend of the motorist, and the future isn't particularly bright either. The government has an appalling track record for road building, and that is unlikely to change. Spiralling levels of traffic will be combated by schemes such as hard shoulder running rather than new bypasses.

The transport minister, Lord Adonis has ruled out the introduction of road pricing in the next parliament, but Labour has toyed with the idea for sometime so it's unlikely to go away. Don't expect any reduction in speed cameras either.

As the government has just introduced a revised VED band system – including the first year 'showroom' tax – so it is unlikely that would change under a new Labour administration. Fuel prices under Gordon Brown's oversight have only ever gone one way – the taxation on a litre of petrol is around 80 percent more than in 2000.

The party still sees itself as a champion of alternative fuels though. Labour pledged to ensure that there would be 100,000 electric vehicle charging points by the end of the next parliament, and the £5000 grant towards the cost of an electric car began in January.


The Conservative government which prevailed in the eighties was an aggressive, if occasionally incompetent, road builder, and their legacy can be felt by anyone traversing the M25 today. The Conservatives would probably be more likely to get back on the digger than either of its rivals, but expect any new roads to be funded by tolls.

The party's view on speed cameras is likely to be a little more popular; a government led by David Cameron would ban all funding for new fixed sites and the widely despised Safety Camera Partnerships would be scrapped.

The Conservatives took great delight in attacking Labour's road pricing plans, and insist they have no intention of introducing new policies. However, with the current road tax system generating around £50 billion a year, it is unlikely that a new government would disturb the status quo either so don't hope to save any money if your vote is blue.

Tory transport spokesperson Theresa Villiers has said that the party would consult on a fuel stabiliser system to cut fuel duty when oil prices rise, but that should certainly not be taken as an election pledge. The stabiliser would only temporarily reduce the price at the pumps – don't expect any permanent lowering of the tax rate.

Villiers also suggested that a Tory government would give people the opportunity to campaign for the removal of excessive traffic lights. We're not sure what form that would take, but there are a half a dozen we can see from the Autoblog office.

Liberal Democrats

If the behaviour of Lib Dem councils is anything to go by, Nick Clegg's government would be pretty tough on the motorist. Richmond Council introduced parking permit charges based on CO2 emissions and Islington Council removed some roadside parking bays altogether.

The Lib Dems are the only party who have said they want to lower the drink driving limit to 50mg and they will ban the private-sector wheel clampers. Transport spokesperson Norman Baker insisted that the party would not cut the funding for the building of strategic roads, but confessed a Lib Dem government would be "very wary" of building new motorways.

That might be for the best as the same government would seek to scrap the current VED tax system in favour of "revenue neutral" road pricing. This will charge motorists more if they use roads which are deemed to have public transport alternatives. If that sounds like a logistical nightmare, it is.

The idea that the Lib Dems would cut fuel duty for remote rural areas also seems to have some awkward practical implications, but that kind of thinking doesn't always occur to the party's policy makers.
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