‘Labour must learn lessons of Uxbridge’

Sir Keir Starmer says despite the party’s success at Selby and Ainsty, its loss in Uxbridge and South Ruislip showed there was “still a long way to go”…reports Asian Lite News

Following the Labour party’s defeat in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection, Sir Keir Starmer acknowledged that something “very wrong” must be happening within the party regarding the contentious Ulez expansion policy.

In a speech at the national policy forum in Nottingham, the Labour leader said that despite the party’s success at the Selby and Ainsty byelection, its loss in Uxbridge and South Ruislip showed there was “still a long way to go”.

He added: “We are doing something very wrong if policies put forward by the Labour party end up on each and every Tory leaflet. We’ve got to face up to that and learn the lessons.”

On Friday, Starmer urged the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to “reflect” on the impact of extending the ultra-low emission zone to every borough, including Uxbridge and South Ruislip where the party was narrowly defeated in a byelection on Thursday.

The Tory victory has been credited by both Conservative and Labour campaigners to Khan’s upcoming expansion of the Ulez. This expansion will impose a daily fee of £12.50 on drivers who use older, more polluting vehicles.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the party had lost by 495 votes in the constituency because it had failed to “listen to voters” over concerns about Ulez.

Some environmentally minded Conservatives have urged Rishi Sunak to hold firm on net zero commitments. However, despite the intensifying climate emergency, with world temperature records broken twice in the last week alone, the prime minister is facing calls from other Tories to rethink “very unpopular” green policies, such as the plans to phase out gas boilers by 2035 and ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

One Tory cabinet minister told the Daily Telegraph: “It is about pace and practicality. This isn’t the area for pure ideology, it is an area for balance.” Another said: “There probably is a broader lesson that the Conservatives should stand for sensible approaches to net zero.”

Craig Mackinlay, the chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, told the Telegraph: “This is a wake-up call to warn politicians against anti-motorist policies across the entire country.

“We need to get the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars overturned at least until 2035, which is where most of the developed world is going.”

But fellow Tory Chris Skidmore, who led a recent net zero review of the UK’s climate goals, said: “It helps no one in politics if we are not honest about the reality of pollution in our cities and the health consequences of this, but we also need to be honest about what investments are needed to deliver policies with public support.

“This was what the net zero review very clearly set out: we need long-term investment to encourage private sector investment and to create a just transition by establishing the effective incentives to decarbonise.”

Meanwhile, The Times reported that Sunak was preparing to launch an aggressive political campaign on crime, migrant boats and transgender rights in an attempt to drive down Labour’s lead in the polls.

The newspaper said the Conservatives were planning to focus on “divisive” issues, with the government said to be drawing up a series of policies for a crime and justice bill that would include tougher sentences for antisocial behaviour, fraud, burglary and robbery.

It was anticipated that Sunak would proceed with his intentions of amending the Equality Act to provide clear safeguards for biological women in single-sex environments, including areas like changing rooms and hospital wards.

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, has suggested delaying the ban on new diesel and petrol cars, pushing it back “at least” five years to 2035.

Downing Street sources say there are no plans to change climate targets – but that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will try to set his party apart from Labour in the coming months.

As the major parties digest the by-election results, ex-climate minister Lord Ian Duncan, a Conservative, warned that if Sir Keir and Rishi Sunak do not put politics aside and agree a common approach to climate change, people will face “serious challenges”.

Lord Duncan, who was the parliamentary under secretary for climate change from July 2019 to February 2020, said a “bipartisan approach” was needed from both parties to “get behind” common climate policies.

The UK government’s net zero tsar, Chris Skidmore, said it would be an “abdication” of responsibility if ministers “play politics” with environmental policies.

Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, said: “The net zero review I chaired demonstrated that net zero isn’t just an environmental policy, but a key economic driver of future growth and investment that can transform Britain for the better, but this requires all political parties not to play politics with safeguarding our futures.”

He urged politicians to prioritise “the lives and health of the public and the opportunity for economic growth” ahead of “gamesmanship”.

“It is also really bad politics, given that the environment and taking action on climate change consistently polls third in the issues that voters care about,” he added.

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