…or at least a million of them.
For the last couple of weeks, emails identical to, or very similar to, this one have been flooding emails lists and forums:

Sarah Kennedy was talking about this proposed car tax scheme on Radio 2. Apparently there is only one month left to register your objection to the ‘Pay As You Go’ road tax.
The petition is on the 10 Downing St website but they didn’t tell anybody about it. Therefore at the time of Sarah’s comments only 250,000 people had signed it and 750,000 signatures are required for the goverment to at least take any notice.
Once you’ve given your details (you don’t have to give your full address, just house number and postcode will do), they will send you an email with a link in it. Once you click on that link, you’ll have signed the petition.
The government’s proposal to introduce road pricing will mean you having to purchase a tracking device for your car and paying a monthly bill to use it.
The tracking device will cost about £200 and in a recent study by the BBC,the lowest monthly bill was £28 for a rural florist and £194 for a delivery driver. A non working mother who used the car to take the kids to school paid £86 in one month.
On top of this massive increase in tax, you will be tracked.
Somebody will know where you are at all times. They will also know how fast you have been going, so even if you accidentally creep over a speed limit in time you can probably expect a Notice of Intended Prosecution with your monthly bill.
If you are concerned about this Orwellian plan and want to stop the constant bashing of the car driver, please sign the petition on No 10’s new website(link below) and pass this on to as many people as possible.
Sign up if you value your freedom and democratic rights –

It’s all nonsense – there’s no plans to impose any such national driving tax, or force any one to have these devices fitted in their cars. In 2004, the Dept of Transport published a feasibility study into road pricing, which concluded that while nationwide road pricing was a desirable objective, actually implementing it would be a long and difficult project:

Delivering such a system would be a major challenge. Getting the prices and complementary local measures right will need a greater knowledge at the localised level of road use and road users. In developing price structures it will be important to consider the different needs and lifestyles of different road users. The institutional structure used to operate and regulate the charges, including the use made of the revenue from them, will need to gain and retain the trust of road users. Clear objectives and criteria would need to be established for setting charge levels, and some on the Steering Group believed that a more fundamental reform of motoring taxation to establish a more transparent system would be required.

There is no discussion in this study of tracking devices in cars – there is such technology being used in Pay as You Drive insurance schemes, but these are voluntary schemes. For some time, a body called the Independent Transport Commission has been pushing for the government to introduce a compulsory road-pricing scheme utilising such tracking devices; the ITC is a think-tank (with two CEOs of rail/bus companies as members, interestingly) that has no particular influence in government.

I suspect the hand of a clever marketing man – or a politician – in the writing and dissemination of this email. Note the implication in the second paragraph that this petition has been organised by the Government: “The petition is on the 10 Downing St website but they didn’t tell anybody about it.” Yes, the petition is on the No 10 site, but anyone can post a petition there; however, not many people are likely to know this.
And whoever wrote the email seems to have known which button to push with the Great British public – dislike of “Big Brother” government, distrust of Tony Blair, fear of surveillence, fear of extra taxes. It was so in tune with popular opnion that not many people actually bothered to check the facts. They just cried “Yes!!” and obediently trooped off to vote the way they were instructed – over a million of them so far.
Even after I had rebutted the email on a couple of lists, people replied that they had added their click to it anyway, because they thought that compulsory tracking of everyone was was Blair/Brown/whoever was ultimately intending to do anyway. And they wanted to protest about it.
I don’t think many people will have bothered to sign a petition that was just generally protesting against road tolls – which this petition actually is. It was posted by National Alliance Against Tolls, a pressure group that I’ve never heard of before now. But I’m sure we’ll be hearing lots of them now.

And, finally, I have the uneasy feeling that marketing people will be studying this particular email campaign with great interest, expecially with an election looming…..