London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made the audacious claim that opponents of his proposed expansion to the city’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) are members of the far right.
The Labour mayor made the claim during a People’s Question Time event on Thursday evening. He sparked a furious backlash among members of the audience for attempting to discredit those campaigning against his plans to roll out the ULEZ scheme, which sees users of the most polluting vehicles charged £12.50 (€14.12) a day for driving in the city, across the Greater London Authority boundary.
“What I find unacceptable though is some of those who have got legitimate objections joining hands with some of those outside who are part of a far-right group,” he told the hall, his words being met by resounding jeers and shouts of “Liar” from the audience at Ealing Town Hall.
“Let’s be frank, let’s call a spade a spade. Some of those outside are part of the far right. Some are Covid deniers. Some are vaccine-deniers. And some are Tories,” Khan added.
“This is a really nasty accusation about many ordinary decent residents who just oppose his policy on ULEZ expansion,” said former Labour MP for Vauxhall Kate Hoey. “So easy when he clearly can’t answer legitimate worries to label everyone as far right.”
“We are not the far right. Normal people are not the far right,” opponents of the scheme told local media.
Khan’s remarks were preceded by questions from local residents. One Londoner said to the mayor: “I want to ask you if you think it’s fair and democratic to be pushing a measure through, which was not in your manifesto and which clearly when people were consulted they said they didn’t want,” for which she received rapturous applause from the audience.
The audience member was referring to a public consultation on the extension plans last year, a consultation Khan insisted was genuine and would factor into his decision, which showed 80 percent of people in the affected area opposed the extension of the ULEZ boundary.
London mayor announces ‘crippling’ high-emission vehicle charge to cover whole of London despite 80% opposing move in public consultation
Motorists traveling inside the boundary of Greater London will be hit with a daily charge of nearly €15
Another woman asked: “What are you going to do for people like me who can’t afford a ULEZ-compliant car and don’t fulfill any of the scrappage scheme criteria?”
She’s not alone in her predicament. The move is estimated to impact a further 200,000 motorists of non-compliant vehicles who will incur a daily levy for crossing into the ultra-low emissions zone, a policy decision the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) claims will “badly hit” drivers to “fill the coffers of Transport for London.” The head of roads policy for vehicle service company RAC, Nicholas Lyes, described it as “a hammer blow for desperate drivers and businesses already struggling with crippling fuel costs.”
Many MPs of Khan’s own Labour party are also concerned about the scheme’s expansion, including Seema Malhotra, Jon Cruddas, Siobhain McDonagh, and Abena Oppong-Asare, all of whom hold Greater London constituencies.
Malhotra, who currently serves as Labour’s shadow business and consumers minister, recently told broadcaster LBC: “Whilst I share the goal of reducing pollution and increasing air quality, I am very concerned about the economic impact the current roll-out plans will have on residents and small businesses.”
The scheme is currently expected to be expanded from Aug. 29.