The recent Uxbridge by-election has intensified political resistance to Ulez and broader Net Zero targets. This shift isn’t just political, says Clive Martin in the Sunday Times. It’s a rising populist counter-movement against the assumed march towards environmentalism. Here’s an excerpt:
The words Uxbridge and Ulez will forever be associated. It was in this corner of West London that the Tories inflicted a surprise by-election defeat on Labour. [Note: it was a Conservative HOLD not a GAIN.] The reason for their win? Opposition to Ulez, the ultra-low emission zone that London Mayor Sadiq Khan is proposing to extend to outer London – and due to come into force on Tuesday, despite a flurry of protests, pamphlets and legal injunctions.
The Uxbridge election sent a tidal wave through British politics, sweeping both Labour and the Tories into firmer anti-Ulez positions. It turbocharged the pushback against Net Zero. But more than that, the fight over Ulez has birthed a counter-revolution – a populist, anti-technocratic, sceptical and, at times, conspiratorial fight back against what was previously seen as a settled direction of travel, towards a greener future.
That is why it matters; these forces will not disappear when the Ulez expansion comes into force this week. Just as the capital was the birthplace of the first anti-car measures in the U.K., so it may prove to be a template for the fight back against the anti-green push back.
Earlier this month I met Prabhdeep Singh in Uxbridge. Singh, a taxi driver and former Army dentist, was five days into a seven day hunger strike against the Ulez expansion. He was not looking well. To make matters worse, his HQ (a market-style gazebo) was situated right next to a bakery and a branch of Costa Coffee. “My stomach is empty, but my spirit is full to the brim,” he assured me.