Mutch’s Diary

You will have noticed the cover of this issue bears the stars and stripes together with the Union flag of our country. I would not normally step so far out of my editorial remit in making gestures of this kind but the present circumstances are so far beyond the norm as to warrant it in my opinion.

Nothing that America has done, in my view, justifies so obscene an act against its innocent civilians. Right now, all Americans, I am certain, value every expression of sympathy from around the world that comes their way, and copies of this paper do reach the USA as our letters page reflects.

I should like to extend to all our friends in the motorcycle world and the USA generally, our sympathy for the catastrophe that has occurred which strikes at us here in Great Britain every bit as much as it has in the USA. This is not Islam against Christianity or East against West it is evil versus good. I hope I speak for us all in offering our support, moral and actual, in overcoming the forces of evil and insanity.

Even as I write I hear that an Afghan cab driver has been crippled by thugs in South London. What was I saying in the last issue about the youth that spat at me? Again we have imbeciles picking on the wrong targets when there are so many deserving ones. Bin Laden has no monopoly on injustice. No doubt the atheists will blame it all on God since religion causes nothing but trouble and will determine therefore that he does not exist, proving that secularism can be just as irrational as fundamentalism.

God Bless America and save mankind from itself say I.

On a lighter note I have just returned from a road safety conference in Wales where I made a presentation on behalf of MAG. One of the invited speakers was a lad of 17 who had been especially invited to provide a youthful perspective. I was concerned to hear him say that he thought cyclists should be forced to wear helmets and that he couldn’t understand why anyone should argue against such a move. Whatever happened to the rebellious intellectual youth of my formative years? To my surprise, one of the safety delegates posed him an interesting question, I quote. ‘Since far more motorists than cyclists die from head injuries, don’t you think motorists should be made to wear helmets?’ The poor fellow was a bit flustered by this and queried the questioners facts but they are correct and it is a good point.

So to Kevin Ash’s column in Motorcycle News. His subject recently was the misrepresentation of statistics in connection with speed cameras, a theme which he broadened to embrace helmets. Supporters of compulsion point to the rise in fatal accidents in the USA since the repeal of so many states’ helmet laws. It’s true, fatalities have risen but the trend is a national one and the states that have not repealed their laws experienced a steeper rise in fatalities than those that that have.

If we had a political system in this country whereby we could challenge laws in court then we could force politicians to acknowledge their errors rather than resting in the certainty that public opinion would be outraged by a reform of the law. Fear of that outrage, allied to the indifference of riders is what sustains the helmet law, not justice. That same injustice and misrepresentation of statistics has been and will be used to defend and sustain any number of ridiculous incursions of civil liberties.

Speaking of justice I was approached at MAG’s Stormin” the Castle rally (which incidentally was a blessedly peaceful and relaxed event this year), by a member who hadn’t seen me for twenty years. He reminded me that he served a three month prison sentence for refusing to pay a fine for riding helmet free back in ’78. Three months in prison for refusing to acknowledge a law which is no more than an irrational disgrace to the British legal system!

You will doubtless have heard of the tragic death of our President and founder Dennis Howard. Many thanks to those who came to the funeral to pay their respects. Dennis had a great sense of humour and when things were glum would quote a character from a movie who would advise in a strong Northern accent which Dennis mimicked wonderfully – try to look on the bryyyat side. Please read the tribute to Dennis.

From The Petition of Supporters of Roadpeace,

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for the Home Department to bring forward legislative proposals which will ensure that road deaths caused through negligence or law breaking are prosecuted as homicides.

These people are mad.

We all bemoan the inadequacy of sentencing when drunken or careless drivers kill innocents, and I am not arguing for the status quo. What I am saying and what the Commons will agree, unless their brains have dissolved, is that road accidents are not to be equated with deliberate acts of malice. To beef up the sentencing for carelessness or negligence is fine, to attribute malicious motivation to the acts of idiots is to desert reason.

Curiously the safety mullahs go on to say: that sentences for such offenses should properly reflect the level of culpability involved.

This almost contradicts what they seem to be saying earlier. British law traditionally administers penalties in proportion to culpability not consequence, though the offence of causing death through careless driving represents a worrying departure from that principle.

If a driver loses control and kills a biker while talking on his mobile, should he be sentenced as harshly as a driver who sets out to knock off a rider with the intention of killing him? Your comments are welcomed.

The world may be in a mess but the good news is that my bike is starting easily thanks to a new starter motor. It no longer whines pathetically and smokes for several seconds before turning the engine over. I suppose one cannot expect a lot more than 150,000 miles out of one motor so I’m not complaining.

Talking of complaints there are those who think our preoccupation with the Hells Angels has deflected MAG from its political work. This is a fine example of impressions clouding the truth. The reality is that MAG’s political activity has never been greater. Thanks to continuity of support and increased income from our affinity deals we have been able to re-engage Henry Marks as Chief Executive. Both Henry and Phil Neale spent most of a week in Brussels lobbying on the daytime headlights issue. If they fail and all vehicles are to be hard-wired we will live in a world of permanent brilliance in which motorists will flatten dogs, children and motorcyclists on the grounds that they were emitting marginally less candlewatts of power than the Fastnet lighthouse. The blind will resort to using Starwars swords to probe their way around while proceeding with miners lamps strapped to their heads. All that’s needed really is a little common sense but that seems to be in short supply these days.

Increasingly I see MAG as a microcosm of the world with the same problems. It’s hard sustaining focus and unity against the confusion of misconception, fear, and malicious misrepresentation, however right you are. Against this backdrop the real miscreants can clothe themselves with bewildering credibility in the eyes of the gullible and escape the universal censure they richly deserve. It’s a funny old world.

Ian ‘trying to look on the bryyat side’ Mutch