It's hard to understand just what the British government were thinking when they decided to announce measures to the public to ensure that there would be no petrol shortage should there be a strike by fuel tanker drivers. The resulting panic has led to cars queueing from the early hours to get petrol, petrol stations running out of fuel and now a woman has suffered burns
to 40 percent of her body whilst transferring petrol from one container to another in her kitchen in a town in Yorkshire. The woman had her oven on at the time and this led to the jug she was using to transfer the petrol catching fire and then her clothes catching fire.
So why would anyone be trying to do such a thing? Well, the woman appears to have been trying to follow the advice handed out by Cabinet Officer Minister Frances Maude who told the British public that as well as filling their cars, they should also store petrol in 'jerry cans'.
The Fire Department immediately put out warnings that this was an extremely dangerous practice but, for one woman, the advice of a Cabinet Minister was better than that of the Fire Brigade. A spokesman for the North Yorkshire Fire Service said:
"Members of the public should take extreme care when handling and storing petrol and be aware of the risks associated with incorrect use and storage of fuel. In domestic situations fuel containers must not be stored in living accommodation such as kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms or under staircases. Any storage place should be well away from living areas and be secured to protect against the possibility of vandalism or arson".
The really stupid part about all this is that the tanker drivers haven't even decided if they will strike or not and are still in discussions. One union, Unite, has already announced they will not be striking over Easter, according to the Independent
. Spokesperson for the union, Diana Holland, said :
"We will not be calling Easter strike action as we focus on substantive talks through Acas. We do still retain the right to call strike action for after Easter, should those talks break down. This is not a political dispute. It is an industrial dispute and the Government's recent rhetoric will not help us achieve a negotiated settlement."
The Daily Mail
has described the situation as "an utter shambles" and few could disagree. It is hard to see what exactly the government was trying to achieve with its ever changing and often conflicting advice. Petrol stations are running out of fuel, with some being forced to ration fuel and others taking advantage to put up prices to make hay while the fuel crisis shines.
Is the government trying to use this farce as a method of turning the public's mind away from the more unpleasant parts of the recent Budget? Or did they really not think through what would happen when the message went out to the public to fill up their cars and stock up on fuel? Whatever the reason, the government's face is now covered in egg, and not a nice chocolate Easter egg, and the public's trust in the government has dropped through the floor.