Labour has blamed London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand London’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) for their narrow defeat in Boris Johnson’s former constituency.
Conservative candidate Steve Tuckwell defeated Labour’s Danny Beales in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election by just 495 votes and used his victory speech to criticise Mr Khan’s policy which comes in next month.
“It was his damaging and costly Ulez policy that lost them this election,” he said.
“This wasn’t the campaign Labour expected and Keir Starmer and his Mayor Sadiq Khan need to sit up and listen to the Uxbridge and South Ruislip residents.”
Mr Khan plans to triple the size of the clean air zone from 29 August, meaning millions more Londoners with non-compliant cars will be required to pay £12.50 per day if they drive in the capital.
Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said Labour’s position on the Ulez expansion had been a factor in their defeat.
“The decision in Uxbridge was related to Ulez… The Uxbridge result shows that when you don’t listen to the voters, you don’t win elections,” she told BBC News.
This was echoed by Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary, Steve Reed, who told the PA news agency: “I think there’s been a number of issues at play, but there has certainly been a number of voters who have said to us that they are very concerned about Ulez.
“Everyone wants to see clean air. But for some people, I think, given the chaos that there is in the economy, because the Conservatives have crashed it and the cost of living crisis that they fuelled, that this is the wrong time to introduce a charge for Ulez.”
Mr Beales, Labour’s candidate in the Uxbridge by-election, spoke out against the Ulez expansion during his campaign and told a hustings earlier this month it was “not the right time” to expand it.
He has previously spoken out against the policy, but told the hustings that he’d had “hundreds of conversations on the doorstep” from residents concerned about the cost of upgrading their cars or paying the daily charge.
“That’s the message I give. Community first, party second,” he added.
Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, refused to say whether he supported the policy in an interview with the BBC earlier this month.
Asked whether he supported Mr Khan’s policy, he said the London Mayor was trying to fulfil his legal obligations to reduce emissions, while Mr Beales was representing his future constituents.
The Ulez zone is due to expand in August to London’s borders with Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey.
It was introduced in 2019 and levies a £12.50 daily charge on drivers who use a diesel vehicle which is over seven years old or a petrol vehicle over 17 years old. Those who do not pay the charge face a fine of up to £180.
The Ulez zone was last expanded in 2021 to the bounds of the North and South Circular roads in London.