RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Why won't the Tories put the brakes on ULEZ?

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Why won't the Tories put the brakes on ULEZ?


RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Why won’t the Tories put the brakes on this ULEZ madness?

What am I bid for a 12-year-old BMW X5 diesel, low mileage, regularly serviced, full MoT, newish tyres, one careful owner? Only ever driven to church on Sundays, etc.

OK, so I lied about the church bit. The rest is kosher, though. Five thousand miles a year, tops, mostly local with the occasional trip to Costco in Watford and long-distance jaunt up the M6 to Jolly Jocko Land.

Good as new, if you ask me. When I bought it, back in December 2010, I thought with any luck it would see me out. I certainly had no intention of getting rid of it any time soon.

My take on cars is the same as my dad’s advice on shoes. Buy the best you can afford and they should last a lifetime. I’ve got brogues dating back over 30 years and haven’t bought a pair of suede loafers since Tony Blair was in No 10.

There’s no reason the X5 wouldn’t go on for another couple of decades or so, either, provided it was properly maintained. So why am I getting rid of it?

If you live in Outer London, like me, you already know why. I’m buggered if I’m going to bung Genghis Khan £12.50 on each occasion I take it out of the garage

If you live in Outer London, like me, you already know why. I’m buggered if I’m going to bung Genghis Khan £12.50 on each occasion I take it out of the garage. This time next week, the extortionate ULEZ extension comes into force, backed by a forest of Big Brother spy cameras with a fine of up to £180 for non-payment.

Not that I can’t afford it. I drive so infrequently that twelve-and-a-half quid is neither here nor there. No more expensive than getting a cab to the curry house and back. Nope, it’s the principle of the thing. 

Imposing the charge on a vast swathe of London where public transport is hopelessly inadequate and air quality is already pristine is a scandalous abuse of the mayor’s power. (None of the muntjacs in my back garden are using inhalers.)

Not to mention the wholly undemocratic way it will impact on anyone from the surrounding Home Counties who has to drive into London for work, pleasure or hospital appointments.

Put aside the hysterical rhetoric about evil exhaust emissions killing suburban children by the thousands and White Van Men dropping like flies after contracting asthma while driving round the North Circular with their windows open. Cars, even the dreaded petrol variety, are cleaner than they’ve ever been.

It’s pure propaganda, designed to disguise the fact Khan is desperately short of money after hopelessly mismanaging London’s finances and sees a smash and grab raid on motorists as the easiest way of making up the shortfall.

We have come to expect the worst from this preening two-bob chancer, who swans around town in a £300,000 armour-plated, gas-guzzling Range Rover while lecturing the rest of us about our cars killing baybees and silencing scientists he’d commissioned, who decided that the scheme would have a ‘negligible’ effect on air quality

As far as he’s concerned, the fact the ULEZ extension hits primarily Tory voters in the outer boroughs is a bonus — even though the poorest Londoners will be disproportionately affected.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper (pictured) has the power to prevent the expansion of Ulez going ahead

Lance and Lee and most of the Transit-owning classes simply can’t afford a new compliant vehicle. They’ll cope by slapping the £12.50-a-day charge on to their bills. So anyone who hires a builder, plumber or electrician will end up paying over the odds.

Even well-heeled Labour supporters in fashionable socialist enclaves like inner-city Islington will have to cough up.

In the latest Spectator magazine, writer Melissa Kite, who lives in Surrey, relates how her Builder Boyfriend has been telling clients over the border in London: ‘We won’t be paying the ULEZ, you will.’ 

Nice one, Genghis, especially in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. No wonder Keir Starmer’s got the collywobbles over ULEZ, particularly after the Uxbridge by-election result.

Now I realise that because I’m a middle-aged, Brexit-supporting, white, male, practising heterosexual — totally unrepresentative of multi-culti, woke London, according to the latest intelligence-insulting nonsense from this intergalactically vain mayor’s PR team — none of this will cut any ice with Genghis. 

We’re talking duck’s back here. (Although it always amuses me to remind Khan that more people in London voted Leave than voted for him as mayor.)

Oh, and if Khan’s intention is to get people using public transport, that too is going to backfire. Where I live, in North London, plenty of people from Hertfordshire drive to Cockfosters Tube station and take the train into town. 

Genghis is already trying to flog off the car park to developers. Now, as commuters are faced with paying an extra £12.50-a-day to drive a couple of miles to the end of the Piccadilly Line, most won’t bother.

The Potters Bar roundabout on the M25 will become the new Checkpoint Charlie. The whole thing is bonkers. At the weekend someone (literally) drove a tank through the existing central ULEZ zone. But because it was built in 1965 it’s classed as a ‘classic’ and exempt from payment.

You couldn’t make it up.

But enough about Genghis. If we don’t always get the mayor we deserve, that’s not down to Labour, it’s down to the Tories.

As Boris proved, London isn’t a ‘Labour City’, as the Left always claim. Inner London, maybe. But not the suburbs

The Conservative Party appears to have given up on London. They could have beaten Khan last time if they’d fielded a better candidate. As Boris proved, London isn’t a ‘Labour City’, as the Left always claim. Inner London, maybe. But not the suburbs.

When Boris was elected the headline on this column read: ‘They came from beyond the North Circular.’ The very boroughs now being hammered by ULEZ put him into office. The Tories owe these voters big time, and should be in their corner if they are to have any chance of preventing a Labour landslide next year.

But rather than stopping Khan’s highway robbery in its tracks, they are missing in action.

We should be grateful to Nigel Farage and his GB News team for exposing the Government’s dereliction of duty. Farage has discovered Transport Secretary Mark Harper has the power to prevent the expansion going ahead.

Section 143 of the Act which established the Greater London Authority states that if a mayor tries to introduce anything ‘inconsistent with national policy relating to transport’ or is ‘detrimental to any area outside Greater London’, the minister has the power to prevent it.

It’s there in black and white.

Maybe I should have known that, having hosted a Radio 5 Live debate in Covent Garden piazza with the leading mayoral candidates at the time — Jeffrey Archer, Trevor Phillips, Red Ken and Simon Hughes. It might be possible to argue the ULEZ extension isn’t inconsistent with national policy, given that similar schemes are popping up everywhere.

When I went to Scotland to see Springsteen in May, the driver taking us from Kilmacolm to Edinburgh moaned all the way about the Glasgow LEZ, being introduced the following week.

But no one can deny Khan’s isn’t going to have a detrimental effect on those living outside Greater London. Harper could cancel it today, with one stroke of his pen. Yet when Farage’s people put that to the transport department, they were told that following legal advice he had decided not to.

Eh? Which bit of ‘detrimental to any area outside Greater London’ don’t Harper’s lawyers understand? At the very least, he could pull the plug and leave it to Khan to challenge him in court. That would grant a welcome stay of execution, at a bare minimum.

Instead, the word is that the Tories have decided to make ULEZ a big issue at the next mayoral and general elections, in a bid to topple Khan and hold on to suburban and Home Counties constituencies currently looking likely to fall to Labour.

They’d rather play politics than protect hard-pressed, hard-working, less well-off Conservative voters, already struggling to make ends meet and unable to afford a new car or van. The £2,000 scrappage scheme is a joke. Yesterday, one tree-hugger on the BBC suggested people could catch a coach to Wales and buy a compliant vehicle for under two grand.

(Which only goes to prove my contention that anyone with a laptop, living above a kebab shop in Stoke Newington, can register as a single issue ‘charity’ and ten minutes later they’ll be on the Today programme shouting at a Government minister.)

I doubt Arthur Daley could find you a compliant car for that kind of money, even with a Bri-Nylon shirt stuffed into the gearbox.

So what are you waiting for, minister? It’s still not too late to stop this madness.

I might even be able to hang on to my X5 diesel a bit longer. But if you’re interested, call it seven-and-a-half grand for cash.

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