Dave Hill: The Right have turned the ULEZ into a law and order issue

Dave Hill: The Right have turned the ULEZ into a law and order issue

London Conservatives are accusing Sadiq Khan of dodging public scrutiny following the Greater London Authority deciding that a People’s Question Time (PQT) event, which had been due to take place in Richmond at the end of this month, will instead be held online.

The true reason for the change is the continuing use of criminal methods and public space intimidation by extreme opponents of the latest expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), to whose activities those same Tories turn a blind eye while their media lickspittles egg them on.

Nasty and nefarious anti-ULEZ tactics have been in use for months, including bringing an atmosphere of menace to venues where the Mayor appears.

Security concerns caused the last People’s Question Time, which took place in November, to be moved from a venue in Westminster to City Hall, where Khan and London Assembly colleagues sat behind a protective screen.

Despite this, proceedings were persistently disrupted by aggressive protesters, one of whom was removed from the building. A man was given a fixed penalty notice for disorderly behaviour after placing an offensive sticker on a window.

Way back in May, Khan’s launch of his book, Breathe, at the Royal Festival Hall was repeatedly disrupted by hecklers whose malignant vibe brought back memories of covering English football thugs abroad. They are a travelling gang of rowdies, a troublemaking mob.

Organised vandalism of ULEZ cameras has been rife and swooningly glamourised by the very propaganda organs of the Right whose usual stance on damage to property is one of strutting, high-minded condemnation.

Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall (pictured), so quick to criticise even the legal tactics of environmental protesters, has mustered barely a peep of disapproval for these self-aggrandising vigilantes. Instead, she gets column space in the Express to criticise security guards brought in by Transport for London to protect mobile enforcement cameras – deployed in part to cover gaps the vandals cause – for wearing balaclavas.

Does it not bother the Tory candidate that security guards are needed in the first place? Has it not crossed her mind that the reason they hide their faces is to avoid identification, fearing reprisals from self-appointed defenders of polluting motorists’ “freedom” who harass, film and photograph them as they go about their work?

The People’s Question Time decision was that of the GLA as a whole, which organises these twice-yearly events and has responsibility for the safety of all who attend them, including the many members of the London public who form the audience. Those officials must be sure that this forum for democratic debate is not abused or turned into an arena for loutish disorder and worse. And it is they who would get the blame if things went wrong.

The advice of the police will have been sought. The wider context, as is too readily forgotten, is that Mayor Khan is deluged by a constant stream of threats, legitimised if not encouraged by far-Right rabble rousers near and far for some of whom Hall has, notoriously, expressed unrepentant support.

London Tories, obsessed with turning back the ULEZ, become affronted when it is pointed out that the issue has been adopted by law-breakers and some of the most sinister elements on the Right fringes of the political spectrum. It seems they prefer that response to the simple and responsible alternative of acknowledging that fanatics have attached themselves to the cause and making it plain that they aren’t wanted.

There are wholly reasonable objections to the latest ULEZ expansion and a fair and important discussion to be had about whether or not the benefits to all of improved air quality are sufficient to outweigh the financial penalties imposed on a minority of motor vehicle-owners.

The hard Right, however, to which Hall – like so much of today’s Conservative Party – belongs, have helped let it become infected by a peculiarly English nationalist notion of entitlement, one which awards itself a moral and patriotic licence to take the law into its own hands – and never mind who they shout down or frighten in the process. And beneath so much of it, of course, lies a seething hatred of Khan himself, a mainstream liberal politician some long to destroy simply because he is also a Muslim.

Hall and her political and media allies can passively or actively go along with all that, or they can dispense with their, at best, mealy-mouthed disapproval of it and instead firmly disavow it.

The ULEZ expansion has already become about maintaining law and order as well as tackling poor air quality. Until Hall and her supporters make it absolutely plain that they oppose all ULEZ-related wrongdoing, whether on the streets or at public meetings, we must assume they are content to indulge it – and in so doing strengthening the case for a third mayoral term for Khan.

Dave Hill is the editor and publisher of OnLondon.co.uk. Support the site and its writers for £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X: OnLondon and Dave Hill.

Categories: Comment


  1. C Woodley says:

    Is there any space on this site for reasonable criticism of the ULEZ expansion from someone left leaning? I hope so.

    I would rather have seen a proper road pricing system introduced that was fairer on low mileage drivers of older cars, those who live outside the zone but have to drive in for work or to visit others, those who are sole traders or have very small businesses who had to go to a great expense to get a new van in the midst of a cost of living crisis, or who no longer serve the ULEZ zone due to squeezed margins, and those who work night shifts where one day incurs two large charges.

    However the Mayor chose to ignore all of this reasonable criticism and introduce the scheme against a lot of opposition (I’m not talking about criminal activity – it was opposition enough to lose Labour what should have been a winnable by-election), in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

    The expansion to the whole of London in its current regressive (flat charge) form was not in Khan’s last election manifesto either, so it is also anti-democratic. Residents (and those affected outside the zone) had no opportunity to vote on the matter, either at an election or in a referendum; it was simply imposed.

    I do not vote Conservative and have supported Khan in the past, but I don’t like at all what he has done with this, particularly the expansion without mandate and very little attempt to mitigate the costs especially on those who have lower incomes but rely on a car or van for work. I would like others to know that opposition to the ULEZ expansion is not restricted to those on the right or far right. There are those of us in the centre and on the left who also oppose it, and my own dilemma is who to vote for in the next Mayoral election, because I can no longer support a Mayor who has refused to listen to reasonable criticism about a policy that affects all Londoners, and many outside the city, whatever their means, and disproportionately those of low and lower middle incomes. I hope this time my comment gets published.

    1. Dave Hill says:

      This article makes the point that there is proper and important debate to be had about the pros and cons of the ULEZ expansion, but its main purpose is to show how London Tories turn a blind eye to those whose opposition to the policy involves the use of intimidation, threats and criminal damage.

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