Cleaning up London’s air: the ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emissions Zone) will affect fewer than one in 10 cars but may deliver a remarkable improvement in air quality.
The High Court has delivered a timely message of support for measures to defeat global warming – by supporting London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s bid to extend the ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emissions Zone) to all of the capital’s boroughs.
Five Conservative-led borough councils had launched a legal battle to stop the extension but in what’s being described as a “landmark” ruling, Lord Justice Swift said he was “satisified” that the proposals were in the London Mayor’s “powers”.
The measure currently covers only areas within the North and South Circular Roads, but the ruling opens it up for extension to all of London’s boroughs from August 29.
It isn’t spectacularly extreme; to avoid the charge, diesel cars must generally have been first registered after September 2015, while most petrol cars registered after 2005 are also exempt.
Drivers of vehicles passing through the ULEZ area that do not comply with emissions standards are charged a daily rate of £12.50.
The decision is a blow against Rishi Sunak’s Tories, after their winning candidate in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election last week, Steve Tuckwell, said the vote had been called a “referendum on ULEZ”.
Opposition party leader Keir Starmer also clashed with Mr Khan over the policy.
Here’s what Mr Khan had to say about the ruling on TV:
Today’s High Court decision means we can proceed with cleaning up outer London’s toxic air.
I’ve been listening to Londoners and I’m expanding the ULEZ scrappage scheme to nearly a million families who receive child benefit & all small businesses.pic.twitter.com/AU9SafG4LP
‘No more Green New Deal’ is what we can see on the banner – and that is exactly what Keir Starmer is offering as he panders to the fossil fuel firms in his relentlessly grubby bid for power.
Tories AND Labour throw green policies into the fire – but who is most responsible?
Let’s make a few connections.
Energy minister Grant Shapps has unilaterally decided that the environment can burn, and to this end has announced that he’ll extract all the remaining fossil fuels from the North Sea in the name of “energy security”:
The planet is burning and the Tory response is to stoke the fire.
If we’ve learned anything from the state of the environment lately, it is that there is no security in energy generated from fossil fuels. As Richard Murphy states, the planet is burning and the Tory response is to stoke the fire.
Now let’s go over to the party formerly known as Labour, where leader Keir Stürmer is trying to dictate to London Mayor Sadiq Khan that he should “reflect on” (ditch) the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone that keeps more heavily-polluting traffic out of the centre of the capital because it was the issue that lost their party the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election.
This is idiotic for several reasons. Firstly, Stürmer’s STP (Substitute Tory Party) should not have lost because of ULEZ, which is a Conservative policy. It was imposed by Boris Johnson – the former MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, whose resignation triggered the election – so all Stürmer’s candidate had to do to counter criticisms of his party and mayor was point this out.
Secondly, we know this didn’t happen because people with non-polluting cars, who would not have paid the charge, were complaining about it on the doorstep. Perhaps they didn’t like being told it was nothing to do with them, but it’s more likely that they simply weren’t told that at all.
On ULEZ and the Uxbridge hold…
Note this from a Labour campaigner:
“We had people with a Tesla in the driveway saying it was outrageous that they would have to pay”
Everyone is quick to blame ULEZ for the Uxbridge Tory Hold — but I’d like to see some data on whether Starmer going on national TV to say he will keep 250,000 children in food poverty, just before an election, might have had an impact? Maybe? Who knows.
Apparently he was a researcher for former Tory MP Matthew Parris.
Forgive me, but I question whether that’s the right sort of grounding for a person who now represents the party that is supposed to support working people.
The Tory government has decided that saving the lives of disabled people who have to live in high-rise tower blocks is too expensive
The government made a secret political decision that it would be too expensive and impractical to ensure that disabled people can safely evacuate from high-rise blocks of flats in emergencies, the high court has concluded. #Grenfell#PEEPshttps://t.co/d7aX01h5zI
Standing ovation for Mick Lynch after speech about the ‘stench of corruption’ in Tory government
"Our wealth is being transferred to the super rich. The oligarchs are running the country right now and they're running it for their benefit, not the benefit of the people. There is a stench of corruption in this society."
Quite right. Only 1,009 votes? That’s just 374 more than Independent Socialist Rosie Mitchell.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats cleaned up, with more than 54 per cent of the votes cast in an enormous swing to that party from the Conservatives – their fifth-biggest since the war (by which I’m assuming commentators mean World War II).
This Writer has a few concerns about that. A (Liberal Democrat) commenter on This Site earlier this week strongly suggested that the only way to keep the Tory candidate out was to vote for his party. It’s a classic Lib Dem strategy – “never mind our policies, put us in to get them out” -and this time it seems to have worked.
It is a failing of the First Past The Post voting system that people believe they have to resort to this kind of tactical voting, not to get an MP with policies they want, but to avoid having one with policies they definitely don’t.
Well, the Liberal Democrats claim to support proportional representation. Let’s hope this one is joined by other MPs (not necessarily from the same party) who also believe in it. Then maybe we can get a government that does what we want, instead of one that works only for itself.
The Tory candidate came second with what is still a fair number of votes on a turnout of just 44 per cent – more than 10,000. But second is not a win, and with 26,000 people who supported the Tories last time failing to turn out for them now, it is clear that Rishi Sunak needs to find a Brexit-level cause with which to inspire support.
With the cost of living rocketing, standards of living falling, poverty rising, inflation high, health care likely to become a costly racket under increasing privatisation, utility forms raking in unwarranted profits and Tory MPs apparently in the pockets of the privateers, it seems unlikely that he’ll find it.
Ah, but if Tory support fell, support for the party that used to represent Labour absolutely imploded:
Labour share of the vote in Somerton & Frome:
• 2017 under Corbyn: 17% • 2023 under Starmer: 2.6%
Fair enough, it seems that Labour was never likely to win a majority here, but the scale on which the electorate has withdrawn its vote should be enough to give even the most tone-deaf party leader cause to reconsider his approach.
It isn’t very many years since people all over the UK were clamouring to join Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, making it the political party with the largest membership in Europe. Now, not only have most of those members deserted Stürmer, but it seems most of the voters have done the same.
It seems clear that policy is the issue. Voters don’t want an alternative government that is only willing to offer the same policies as the current administration – that is not delivering value for our tax money.
If Keir Stürmer is determined not to change course, but to continue dragging his party to the political right, then he faces yet another loss at the polls in late 2024 or early 2025.
Labour did slightly better in Uxbridge and South Ruislip…
Uxbridge and South Ruislip, parliamentary by-election result:
… but the bar here was much lower; Stürmer’s party needed only a 7.5 per cent swing in its favour to take the seat.
The fact that this didn’t happen is being blamed on the fact that Labour enforces the ULEZ – Ultra-Low Emission Zone – where drivers with the most polluting cars must pay a fee to travel:
Angela Rayner: "… Ulez was the reason we didn't win [Uxbridge]"
So will the Labour right leadership say we need to fund green policies better to mitigate the impact on people (e.g. making public transport free), or will they throw the green policies under the bus?🤔 pic.twitter.com/l8WAIhIA9p
It beggars belief that voters in the constituency formerly occupied by the politician who introduced the ULEZ should vote for his party’s candidate in protest against it.
Still, Stürmer’s party is running with this excuse for all it is worth:
I did warn about electoral impact of anti-car policies after the 2021 locals. They are understandably popular in inner urban areas but alienate working class voters in outer areas of towns & cities. We need to listen as this could be the new Brexit culture war wedge. https://t.co/DoXk6dfgXi
But the evidence of the doorstep may suggest something different – that it is Keir Starmer and his Tory policies, or lack of Labour policies, who alienated voters. My information is anecdotal – from people I know live there – but it seems to have swayed this commentator (apologies for the strong language):
Lmao Keir Starmer couldn’t even manage to take Boris Fucking Johnson’s old seat.
Despite the Tories turning the country into an absolute shithole, and all the polls predicting a big Labour win, Starmer still managed to repel voters enough to lose.
The message seems clear: if he wants to win a general election, Keir Stürmer must offer the electorate a Labour Party, with clear Labour Party policies that put a huge amount of difference between it and the Conservatives.
If he can’t – or won’t – do that, then he should be made to make way for somebody who will.
Still, Stürmer can console himself with his sole victory of the three, in Selby and Ainsty:
Selby and Ainsty parliamentary by-election, result:
Johnny Mercer is, above all else, a graceless, arrogant, patronising, charmless, vicious little shit. Not a single genuinely-held belief in his entire body. I wouldn’t trust him with my houseplants while I was on holiday, let alone being an MP. pic.twitter.com/TZIv8EPSKu
Mercer’s comments have been shown to be quite astonishingly tone-deaf. Here’s a good reason:
Not sure why some Tories are being unkind toward @Mather_Keir. At 25 he's a year older than Margaret Roberts (/Thatcher) was when she first stood for Parliament. And if he fails, voters can get rid of him. Unlike Charlotte Owen, appointed to the Lords at the age of 29, for life. pic.twitter.com/YljI5Gecim
The UK’s electoral situation is much more volatile than we have been led to believe.
According to the polls, the Stürmer Party should have won all three seats easily. It didn’t. Tactical voting scuppered it in Somerton and Frome – but conversely propelled it to victory in Selby and Ainsty. Distaste – either for the party’s leader or its policies – killed its chances in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
The Conservative Party is in deep trouble, no matter what. It lost two seats and only held onto the third by the narrowest margin, despite protests against Stürmer and his policies. Rishi Sunak has nothing to offer the public – his party is riddled with corruption and self-interest and will not help struggling citizens. It is amazing that he isn’t facing demands for his resignation.
And the Liberal Democrat win seems entirely due to protest voting. Its new MP – Sarah Dyke – will have to work very hard indeed to prove otherwise.
Meanwhile, other parties and independents are growing in popularity. The Green Party beat Labour in Somerton and Frome and the Liberal Democrats in Selby and Ainsty and Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
It seems likely that Independents may have fared much better if they had been given equal media exposure to the “Establishment” parties.
The lack of such exposure merely shows what a slanted playing field democracy in the UK has become.
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