Election 2024: Constituency profile – Uxbridge & South Ruislip

Election 2024: Constituency profile – Uxbridge & South Ruislip

The by-election for this seat held on 20 July last year produced clinching proof that road user charging makes politicians go mad.

Brought about by the disgrace, downfall and resignation of Boris Johnson, first as Prime Minister and then as the seat’s MP, the contest was framed by Steve Tuckwell, Johnson’s local successor, as a referendum on Sadiq Khan’s latest expansion of London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which was due to come into effect in a few weeks’ time.

Labour’s Danny Beales was expected to win, though, writing for On London, elections expert Lewis Baston warned that it wasn’t a done deal. Beales or his team got nervous two weeks from the vote, resulting in a shift from a “listening” position on the issue to calling for a delay. But in the event, Tuckwell clung on by under 500 votes, just about swerving a strong swing against him.

It was an ominous result for the Tories. Yet, despite that and Labour securing a huge victory elsewhere on the same day, Keir Starmer’s horrified response to Tuckwell’s narrow escape ensured it was the main media talking point for days. Meanwhile, few highlighted the dishonesty of Tuckwell’s campaign, which, helped by materials masquerading as coming from “the local community”, gave the impression to voters that anyone owning a car would have to pay a ULEZ charge.

The truth was that the vehicles of about 85 per cent of local car-owning households were already ULEZ-complaint and around 20 per cent of local households had no car at all. The obsession with the ULEZ reduced the debate to a quarrel about who could be most appalled by a red herring. And now that the expansion has been operating for close to a year, many who voted for Tuckwell in order to oppose Khan will have worked out that they were conned.

That might explain why, in March, Tuckwell launched a petition for bringing a fish and chip shop to the centre of Uxbridge. Perhaps he had simply forgotten voting against just such a thing in 2019 as a member of Hillingdon’s planning committee. Whatever, a Labour colleague had no trouble remembering it or, indeed, with bringing Tuckwell’s U-turn to journalists’ notice.

Some people claimed the true aim of the petition was to gather data for Tuckwell’s mailing lists in advance of a return bout for Uxbridge & South Ruislip that he is less likely to win. Terrible thing, cynicism. Tuckwell, incidentally, continues to sit as a Hillingdon councillor. That could be fair enough for now, but might also be sign of him hedging his bets.

Can anything stop Beales, a councillor in Camden who grew up in Uxbridge, taking his revenge next Thursday? The seat’s boundary with neighbouring Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner has been adjusted, meaning the solidly Conservative Ickenham & Southfield ward has been added, though parts of the equally Tory Eastcote and Ruislip wards have gone. It’s worth remembering that this area has a history of being more loyally Conservative than might be expected. And Hillingdon as a whole has been more resistant to Labour’s gains in outer London areas than some.

All that said, Beales has to be a hotter favourite than he was this time last year, when he almost got over the line. Things look worse for the Tories now, the ULEZ fox has been shot, and it looks like Tuckwell will very soon have had his chips.

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Categories: Analysis

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