Peter Rhodes on a Green alliance, a rise in smoking and cars we just don't understand

Make your mind up, Auntie. BBC News reported a sharp drop in UK car production as “the worst July since 1956.” Worst? What is bad about people buying fewer cars and making their cars last longer?

FILE - In this March 12, 2012 file picture a  Volkswagen New Beetle car is lifted inside a delivery tower  in Wolfsburg, Germany.  German automaker Volkswagen AG says its 2012 group sales hit a record high as growing demand around the world more than offset sluggish sales in Europe. It says Monday Jan. 14, 2013  that more than nine million vehicles were delivered for the first time. The total of 9.07 million was up 11.2 percent from the 8.16 million delivered in 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn,File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2012 file picture a Volkswagen New Beetle car is lifted inside a delivery tower in Wolfsburg, Germany. German automaker Volkswagen AG says its 2012 group sales hit a record high as growing demand around the world more than offset sluggish sales in Europe. It says Monday Jan. 14, 2013 that more than nine million vehicles were delivered for the first time. The total of 9.07 million was up 11.2 percent from the 8.16 million delivered in 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn,File)

UK car factories still managed to churn out more than 550,000 new vehicles in the first eight months of this year. In the great scheme of things what matters more, the car makers' profits or the air we breathe? So think again. Was it the worst July since 1956 – or the best?

Part of the reason for the drop in sales is a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, the vital ingredient of the microchips and sensors stuffed into every new car which provide all sorts of functions. At enormous expense, for example, the motor industry has created a generation of cars whose engines automatically switch off in queues. It's called the start-stop function and it can be profoundly irritating. And if you go to the drivers' forum websites you'll find one of the most popular DIY modifications is the one that disables it. Hand on heart, how many of the gizmos in your car do you ever use, understand or even want?

It could be 40 years from now before the true death toll from Covid-19 is known. That's because the final figure ought to include those people who, as youngsters in 2021 through a combination of boredom, anxiety and lockdown, decided to take up smoking, as reported by Cancer Research UK. One of the deadliest pandemics in human history is passed not by touch, coughs or sneezes but by the words: “Got a fag?”

Without waiting for Whitehall to act, the Scottish government has announced an inquiry into the Covid pandemic. Let me hazard a guess at its findings. Who deserves praise for everything that went right? The SNP. Who must be blamed for everything that went wrong? Why, those Sassenachs, of course.

Meanwhile, the SNP has forged an alliance with the Green Party. But this isn't just about Scotland waging war on global warming. Green MP Caroline Lucas wants to extend tenants' rights including what she calls “the right to keep pets in rental accommodation.” These are stirring times. Before this alliance has even been put to the electorate, the SNP/Greens will have two dazzling policy slogans: “A Rottweiler on Every Landing” and “Let's Make Scotland Colder.”

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