Vacillation Man – 27 July 2023


ULEZ, or the ultra-low emission zone was clearly a factor in the Tories holding Uxbridge and Ruislip galvanizing Tory support and giving those reluctant to support the shambles of a government. It was at least something to vote against rather than stay at home, which was what happened in the two seats the Tories lost.

But Labour’s vacillation on the issue also cost them. The Tory majority was roughly half what the Green candidate polled. Some of them might have been persuaded to vote tactically had the Labour candidate not spoken out against it and with the party ostracising the London Mayor. Other voters who might have enjoyed reveling in another Tory defeat, saw no joy in supporting a candidate selling out on that and other core issues such as child benefit cap, and simply stayed home.

So yes, Labour lost it rather than the Tories winning it, but the blame lies with Starmer not with Sadiq Khan. The latter has been lambasted unfairly, after all ULEZ wasn’t even a concept thought up by him. Credit there has to go to Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor and it’s also a policy being pushed more widely across the country by the Tory Government.

Khan’s taking the rap for doing what needs done and what’s right. He’s been hamstrung by the Tory Energy department who’ve starved him of the funds to properly carry it out. The irony of ULEZ is that those who most benefit from it are the poorest living in inner London. Few if any of whom can afford a car yet pay the price in asthma and other critical health problems. Lives are saved by this, it’s not just less polluted air on the streets of old London town.

Equally though the others who lose out most are the poorest further out who can only afford the oldest and most polluting vehicles affected by this. Not for them the luxury of an electric or hybrid car. The solution of course is a car scrappage scheme. Recompensing those who require a vehicle for the vehicles we need to remove from our streets is needed. But Khan’s denied funds to properly achieve that.

But done it must be. Pollution is killing us and hard choices need made. There’s always going to be a section of society who say who care’s, I’ll drive what I want, where I want. The same as whilst our planet burns, they’ll insist on flying wherever and whenever. But we can’t go on like this as Rhodes is showing.

Politicians are going to have to make hard decisions, many of which will be unpopular. Of course, that will galvanize the populists in opposition and challenge those seeking to do what needs to be done. But good people will stand by those who stand up for what’s right. It’s always been the case and it will be even more so as the challenges mount and the cost of change impacts.

People don’t have to welcome or even necessarily agree with a politician to vote for them. But they do have to respect them. It’s why you should say what you man and mean what you say. Starmer’s saying little and standing by less. He’s vacillation man, it cost them Uxbridge and could yet cost him the election.