Will you be buying petrol tomorrow?

I tend to steer clear of politics on my blog.

It’s not as though I’m a massively political person. Yes, I was a member of the Socialist Worker Student Society during university, but if I’m honest, I think I just had a crush on the SWSS leader, after I watched him on the Glasgow evening news being carted off by the police while singing, “I fought the law, and the law won.”

But today, as I sat home with Flea, who can’t go to school because we don’t have any petrol, I’m feeling a bit more politically roused than usual. Is it just me who thinks it’s massively convenient for the ConDems to have triggered a fuel crisis with their witless advice to the public?

A few days ago, we were talking about dodgy donation tactics in the Tory party, the impact of the budget on pensioners and how the ConDems put an extra £42,500 in the pocket of every millionaire. Now all anyone seems to be talking about is the “idiots” queuing at petrol stations because they listened to Dave and his cronies, and they really want to go on holiday for Easter (it’s amazing how many people in petrol station queues think everyone else in line is an idiot, while they’re obviously without fault).

What’s ridiculous is that the crisis is completely imaginary. There’s no strike, and there may not even be one. Petrol is still being delivered.  ACAS is working to get terms for talks, which may well be agreed on Monday, with talks hopefully following after. If that fails, and a strike goes ahead, there will be 7 days notice. By which time the petrol you’ve put in your car today will presumably have run out.

As it happens, the petrol stations around the small town where I live have run dry. They were closed by yesterday lunchtime, and none has re-opened yet. So I’ll be staying home, and we’ll use public transport, and walk, and we’ll cope, until the situation calms down. We’ll leave the petrol for people who really need it. I say this for two reasons.

First, I don’t like feeling I’m being exploited by the government, and I think we are. I think (personal opinion) the ConDems will benefit enormously from a pointless crisis that will fuel (ba-dum tish) negative sentiment towards unions ahead of any negotiations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an attempt to introduce legislation to cap the unions’ powers in the coming months. Oh, and the government raised an extra £32m in duty from that 81% increase in petrol sales yesterday, and presumably even more than that today. I think that’s worth bearing in mind.

Also, I believe in democracy. It might sound fanciful, but in a democracy workers have the right to withdraw their labour and that’s really, really important. Certainly, more important to me than a one-off holiday, or a day out for Easter. I’m sort of surprised how strongly I still feel about that, and how cross I get when I see politicians attempting to undermine it.

So, I’m not going to call people who are filling up their cars ‘idiots’, although I think some of them are certainly misguided. After all, they’re only following the advice of politicians. I’m just not sure the politicians have our best interests at heart. What do you think?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Vic
    29th March 2012 / 8:28 pm

    Well until today my head had been in the sand. I filled up yesterday and wondered why the station had no diesel. We’re supposed to be going to Scotland on Sunday and it was only when mum asked what I was going to do about the petrol crisis. I don’t know. I hope we won’t have to call the trip off as it’ll likely be our holiday this year. What I do know is we don’t have enough space in the car for all the cans of petrol we’d need to get us there and back.

    • 29th March 2012 / 8:53 pm

      Quite, if we need to we’ll call off our trip to Brighton next week, which would be a shame, but we’ll survive.

  2. 29th March 2012 / 8:39 pm

    I only have to fill up about once a month so was happily thinking how foolish everyone was being …and then my petrol light came on, Bugger!

    My favourite (although probably not realistic) theory is that, with the government desperate to avoid the declaration of a ‘technical recession’ in a few days time, huge increases in spending in the last 3 days of the quarter is in their interest. Sadly, I don’t think hoarding stamps is going to solve the problem.

    • 29th March 2012 / 8:54 pm

      Actually, it’s not such a bonkers theory – there was a great interview with an economist in the Guardian demonstrating how a 0.1% shift could tip GPD enough to technically push us out of a technical recession (and since the figures are rounded, a 0.06% push may be enough, but it’s complex how they calculate the value of economic activity)

  3. 29th March 2012 / 8:50 pm

    We filled up today for the simple reason that we wanted to go somewhere today and didn’t have enough diesel in the tank to get there and back. There were queues, but no where near as bad as I saw them when we had strikes before.

    Unions concern me. I’m just not convinced that they’re always really working in the best interests of their members as members of a wider society. Yes, they are always saying that they want better pay or working conditions for their members, but sometimes what they’re asking for seems to be unrealistic compared to what else is going around them. The Tube Drivers in London have certainly not gained any sympathy from most Londoners in the last few years. There are plenty of people who would happily work for their pay levels if only they had the chance.

    The current fuel situation seems to be a bit of a farce. That and “pasty-gate” just demonstrate the “silly season” that seems to have started with this warmer weather that we’ve been having of late. Quite where things go from here I honestly have no idea.

    • 29th March 2012 / 8:58 pm

      I guess my question is would you NOT go somewhere you wanted to go, if it was for the greater good? We’d like to go on holiday next week, we’d like to go to school tomorrow, we’d like to do a lot of things that might end up not happening. We’ll live.

      I can see some unions are imperfect, but I would argue they are a thousand times better than the alternative of not having anyone to represent workers’ rights and co-ordinate these actions. Tubes are actually a great example – it’s very easy to grumble about what tube workers get paid, but actually when you watch the TV programme about the work they do, and the conditions they work in, I think they’re kind of heroic really. It’s about what information you’re given, and how that’s presented – it can completely turn around your perceptions. I’m not sure what the truth is, if I’m honest. I’ve grumbled about tube strikes with the best of them when I had to walk from Soho to Walthamstow, but I do still believe in the principle that every worker should have the right to strike.

      But yes, the current situation is completely daft. Silly season is about right – don’t even get me started on the pasties – that’s a whole OTHER rant 🙂

  4. Dan Thornton
    29th March 2012 / 9:03 pm

    A fuel crisis which could let the Govt claim that we’re out of a technical recession and has completely distracted everyone from the pay for access scandal?

    Combined with pastygate, it does seem that two particularly meaningless govt slurs have occurred just after they also kneecapped the NHS and paved the way for privatisation, paved the way to privatise the Royal Mail after driving up costs for small business, and also did their best to avoid taxing the rich whilst reducing support for the poor…

    Not that I’m cynical but given the three major political parties and the fact they’re essentially the same, as much as I want to believe in democracy at the moment it seems finding anyone worht voting for will be the biggest challenge.

    • 30th March 2012 / 7:19 am

      Yes, I know what you mean about feeling they’re all much of a muchness but there is something horribly deliberate about the ConDems lately.

  5. 29th March 2012 / 9:07 pm

    Yup, we are one of those who are worried that we won’t have enough fuel to do a 500miles drive for Easter, which we’ve already spent £200 on that is non-refundable. We know, of course, that by refueling now, it wont last till next weekend. But having half a tank full is better than empty. At least if there are some fuel supply next week, we don’t have to top up a full tank.

    The reason why we decided to finally join the queue is not because we believe there is a strike. It’s fairly obvious that the gov is shitting everyone so they can pocket the money straight after they increased the price. But we have no choice. Everyone is sucking the petrol stations dry. If we don’t fuel up, we might not get any.

    As for whether there is plenty of supply, I’m not very sure. There is still no petrol around our area. Husband found some near a business park.

    To be honest I’m damn pissed off that we are forced into following the flocks. If today husband doesn’t need to drive to work and we didn’t spent our hard earnt savings on a damn holiday that we long needed, I would have suggested to sod the government and not use the car.

    I don’t understand politics and I really don’t understand why we have no say in things? Can they really decide on everything even if the majority of the country is against it? Surely we still get a say?

    Anyway. I’ll head to bed continue feeling stupid, conned and loss of control. Oh and I’ll be eating cold pasties from now on.

    • 30th March 2012 / 7:20 am

      I know what you mean about the trips – my challenge is to get to Brighton and back (our Easter hols) requires 3 tanks of petrol. So it can’t be done unless there’s a ready supply of petrol. Sigh.

      • 30th March 2012 / 9:40 am

        Ouch. Good luck to us then. Your best bet is stations near business parks, especially those that has lots of trucks going past. Husband told me that the petrol stations near there, even ASDA, kept on replenishing because they have the duty to keep companies nearby running.

        • 30th March 2012 / 9:51 am

          Unfortunately, don’t have enough petrol to get there! I’m completely running on fumes and just made the decision not to fill up, on principle. I will not be one of Dave’s little minions. Grrr.

  6. 29th March 2012 / 9:18 pm

    Yes, Liberal Conspiracy also ran a post today pointing out just how convenient this ‘crisis’ is at the moment. The first quarter of the year ends at midnight tonight – it is predicted we are heading for recession – and all of a sudden, whadya know? The powers that be are encouraging us all to panic-buy fuel.

    Call me cynical but I smell a bloody great rat.

    • 30th March 2012 / 9:42 am

      Argh!! I feel like beating someone up! Grrrr!!!!

      • 30th March 2012 / 9:50 am

        Me too. So infuriating!

  7. 30th March 2012 / 9:09 am

    This petrol crisis and panic buying is seriously annoying me. Usually I don’t get involved in panic buying. For example when it snows you won’t find me trapsing back from the supermarket with 20 loaves of bread and 14 pints of milk. I’ll cope without them for a few days if necessary. And as a big user of public transport the petrol crisis wouldn’t normally worry my either. We’d just get out and about by other means. The thing that’s worrying me this time is that I’m 36 weeks pregnant and although this should all be done and dusted by the time I give birth the hormonal woman in me is indeed panicking. What if I go into labour early and my husband is stuck at work with no petrol? What if he can’t get to me? What if we can’t get to the hospital? It annoys me that I’ve been made to feel vulnerable because of people panic buying petrol when they don’t really need it. And yes, I know there are people in a far worse of situation than me that need petrol to get places for health or livelyhood reasons but I’m worrying enough about so many things right now as it is I really don’t need the extra stress. I’m therefore playing my hormonal lady pregnancy trump card and admit I did send hubby out to top up the tank last night.
    Hope this sorts itself out and you don’t have to miss out on your trip to Brighton. Brighton rocks!

    • 30th March 2012 / 9:49 am

      I agree – living in rural areas, or if you have health needs, fuel isn’t optional. I think it’s hard to say what SHOULD be done – it’s hard to criticise people in towns for panicking and being a bit sheep-like because that’s what Dave & Co told them to do.

  8. 30th March 2012 / 9:21 am

    We live in a ‘me’ society and everyone can self justify here own requirement for fuel. The facial expressions of the people being interviewed in the queues as to why they were queuing spoke volumes. Living out in the country means many people simply have no choice about fuel. Public transport is limited, many villages have no shops let alone doctors or post offices. It simply isn’t safe to cycle around many of the one lane roads with shopping on your handle bars! I’ll stay home as much as possible, I need nothing really. We are going away for a few days but have enough fuel to see us there and back if we are sensible. We have no intention of joining a queue right now, I’m hoping it’ll blow over . I think the ambulances, buses etc should get first dibs, then the rural stations, then the cities, but people rarely play fair these days.

    • 30th March 2012 / 9:48 am

      Yes, those interviews were full of people NOT panic buying but only buying because they had to. And yet petrol sales were up by 81% – so by definition, almost half the people in the queues were not just buying as usual, were they?

  9. kathleen
    30th March 2012 / 9:32 am

    I agree with most of what you’ve said. They’ve effectively created a crisis and distracted people from a number of other issues such as the woeful NHS Reform Bill that will shatter healthcare in this country. They are deliberately trying to create anger and suspicion of unions, anger and suspicion that should be directed at them. What makes me even crosser is that this government wasn’t even voted in. They’re here by default!
    I don’t like playing into the hands of politicians either but I just feel stuck today. I don’t want to join the queues but the light in my car is on. I live in a rural area of South Wales. Public transport here is limited and that’s even if it’s running. I need to pick my son up from school later, a trip that is only about 8 miles all round but I need to drive. It’s not safe for us to walk with a buggy and him walking along the roads round here, there are no pavements. Oh and I need to go to work later. If I don’t go I don’t get paid and I don’t have the option to work from home. It’s money that we’ve factored into our already tight budget. So what do I do? Hold tight and hope for the best or join the queues?

    • 30th March 2012 / 9:44 am

      Surely if we all know this, and the newspapers know this, EVERYONE should know this. Yet there is nothing we can do. How crap is that? Just because we chose some people to lead the country, the so called Government, doesn’t mean we let them play with our lives like this? Urgh!!

  10. 30th March 2012 / 11:56 am

    Call me stupid and selfish but I filled up yesterday as I was down to nothing and I always fill a full tank. Besides point with 200 miles to drive next Weds and £900 already having been spent on the holiday it was the right thing for our family to do. Now if a strike does gte called, how we will get back from Minehead is quite another matter!

    I have no problem with strikes if handled well (by the unions and employers associations) and as yet there is no strike called, so all these fools like dh’s Dad who filled up ‘just in case’ are nuts!

    Mich x

    • 30th March 2012 / 12:12 pm

      Well, I’m not going to call anyone selfish but I am a bit perplexed. You need to travel next Wednesday. There is zero possibility of a strike between now and then, the very earliest a strike could have been would have been next Thursday. So why fill up a full tank a whole week before?

      With respect, it’s people who do have done exactly what you did, who are the reason I’m at home today with a child home from school and four petrol stations in our area, all closed. I just don’t get it.

      • 30th March 2012 / 9:58 pm

        Because I had nothing left in the car and my norm is to fill up a full tank. I like to go to the station as little as possible but also because nearly all the stations are dry here too and I am not taking the risk that we can not go on holiday. and besides point I have to go to work next week and carry on with normal activities this week like Cub drop offs.

        Whether there is a strike or not people were buying all the petrol up and when I spoke to the petrol station guy yesterday their next delivery is not until next Thurs, so that would have been too late if I left it.

        • 30th March 2012 / 10:01 pm

          I guess you have to make the choice that feels right to you, it’s not my place to judge! And as I say, I think the government is truly at fault more than anyone lining up for fuel.

  11. 30th March 2012 / 8:00 pm

    I’m not sure that this will fuel negative sentiment towards the unions – isn’t it more likely to fuel negative sentiment towards the ConDems for stirring up panic in the first place? Particularly when government ministers tell people to fill up jerry cans, which can be highly dangerous.

    • 30th March 2012 / 10:00 pm

      Hard to say – depends which paper you read, I think 😉