Tories' war on jams

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THE Conservative party, unfazed by John Major's ill-fated cones hotline, has dreamt up a new scheme to win over frustrated motorists: Jam Watch, writes Marie Woolf.

Party workers are to be told to monitor traffic hold-ups and report to Conservative Central Office's "Jam Watch" unit, a leaked memo from Bernard Jenkin, shadow Transport minister, reveals.

The memo, which outlines the central planks of the party's summer strategy on transport, shows that Jam Watch will be accompanied by Truck Watch - a study of haulage companies going bust - and public exploitation of "lack of provision for the solar eclipse".

The memo, which was circulated to the Shadow Cabinet, also reveals that the Tories plan to write "a letter to Helen Liddell [the Transport minister] every few days" about traffic jams or "congestion black spots". It says Jam Watch is "a study of traffic jams over the holiday period" and "we will return to this regularly".

The memo also shows that the Tories are planning attacks on John Prescott's record. The code for this strategy is "Prescott's holiday reading".

Party workers are to be told to pay special attention to traffic jams over the Bank Holiday period in August. "During the recess, the transport campaign concentrate [sic] on a number of `standstill' issues, to be exploited regionally as well as locally," the memo says.

Geraint Davies, chairman of Labour's backbench environment, transport and the regions committee, said: "Jam Watch is an absurd idea. The Conservatives are clearly desperate. They can't be in favour of both cutting the cost of fuel for cars and reducing traffic jams. It doesn't make sense."

Last week the Conservatives launched their strategy to get Britain on the move, including scrapping road humps.