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Rishi Sunak targeting contentious low-traffic neighbourhoods to draw dividing line with Labour

Rishi Sunak is not a cyclist, but he does a lot of pedalling. This isn’t some sort of cue for a joke. It’s just a fact.

Those that know the Prime Minister say he has never commuted into work on a bike, but he does a lot of cycling to keep fit, being the lucky owner of a £2,500 Peloton exercise bike.

Another clue that he is not a cyclist – and possibly not even a pedestrian – came this weekend when he told the Sunday Telegraph that he is “on the side” of motorists and that he believes “anti-motorist” policies are too often imposing on people’s family lives.

On the face of it, the declaration of war on “anti-car schemes” seems odd. The vast majority of cyclists are motorists, and all motorists are pedestrians at some point – they are also often known simply as “people”.

But efforts to reduce congestion and exhaust fumes, via low-traffic neighbourhoods and ultra-low emissions zones, have become hugely divisive. They have descended into a “them against us”/“motorists versus the rest” dynamic, often – but not always – dividing on party political lines.

And it is here that Mr Sunak spies fertile ground for scratching a fresh dividing line with Labour. Car ownership and dependency is highest outside the urban centres, where Labour has the strongest support.

By reaching out to these people, the Prime Minister is trying to shore up his core voters, while also appealing to those in the Red Wall that may be wavering, having only lent the Tories their vote in 2019.

But the plan is not without its risks. His support for motorists comes after a week of him backtracking on various green commitments, which risks alienating voters, particularly those in the Blue Wall.

Mr Sunak, through his sober, solid stewardship of the country, has made in-roads with traditional Tory voters in the southern heartlands, but they may be turned off by his new-found climate agnosticism.

He might find that his apparent retreat on the country’s net zero commitments, may find the electorate telling him to get on his bike come polling day.

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