Sir Keir Starmer has backtracked on Labour’s commitment to introduce clean air zones across the UK, according to reports, following the party’s failure to win the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election.
A statement confirming support for the zones has reportedly been scored out from the party’s programme, despite London mayor Sadiq Khan vowing to press ahead with the plans to expand the capital’s ultra-low emissions zone (Ulez).
The Ulez charges drivers money based on their vehicle’s emissions, with protests taking place across the city against the controversial scheme.
Clean air zones featured among Labour’s transport pledges in an 86-page draft policy handbook which was debated last month at the party’s National Policy Forum (NPF).
“Labour supports the principle of clean air zones and recognises the huge damage to human health caused by air pollution and the damage to our climate caused by carbon emissions from polluting vehicles,” the original draft document had stated.
“However, they must be phased in carefully, mindful of the impacts on small businesses and low-paid workers, and should be accompanied with a just transition plan to enable people to switch affordably to low-emission vehicles.”
The Telegraph reports that the paragraph was scrapped during the forum, with a Labour source confirming to the newspaper that the policy had been officially dropped.
The forum took place just days after Labour failed to win a by-election due to voter backlash against Ulez, which has divided Londoners since it was first introduced in April 2019.
On Saturday, several vehicles had their tyres punctured in Bromley during an anti-Ulez protest while protesters held signs reading “Khant pay, won’t pay”.
The expansion is due to come into force at the end of August, and will require city dwellers to pay £12.50-a-day to drive into Greater London if their cars do not meet environmental standards.
Sir Keir had previously voiced support for the scheme but has turned against the police following the Uxbridge result.
Labour’s unsuccessful candidate at the by-election, Danny Beales, told the NPF that Ulex had “cut us off at the knees” while Sir Keir said that the party had to “face up” to the electoral damage.
“In an election, policy matters,” he said. “And we are doing something very wrong if policies put forward by the Labour Party end up on each and every Tory leaflet.”
Aside from London, clean air zones already exist in a number of Labour-run cities including Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol and Bradford.
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