Keir Starmer calls for Sadiq Khan to 'reflect' on Ulez expansion after surprise by-election loss

21 July 2023, 16:43 | Updated: 21 July 2023, 16:45

Both Labour and the Tories have blamed Ulez for their by-election loss in Uxbridge
Both Labour and the Tories have blamed Ulez for their by-election loss in Uxbridge. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Sir Keir Starmer has urged Sadiq Khan to "reflect" on his decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) after the party's surprise by-election loss in Uxbridge.

Both Labour and the Tories have said Mr Khan's planned Ulez expansion played a major role in the Conservatives holding onto Uxbridge, including the winner himself Steve Tuckwell.

Speaking to reporters, Sir Keir said the Ulez expansion was a factor in "why we lost in Uxbridge", adding: "We all need to reflect on that, including the mayor."

But Mr Khan does not appear to have any qualms about pressing ahead with the Ulez expansion, telling LBC it will help improve air quality in outer London.

"Look, expanding Ulez to all of London wasn’t an easy decision, it was a tough decision but I think it was the right thing for us to do," the Mayor of London told LBC's Shelagh Fogarty.

Ulez has 'affected out family terribly' says caller

Other senior Labour MPs have signalled unrest with Ulez's factor in the Uxbridge loss, including deputy leader Angela Rayner.

She said the loss shows what happens "when you don't listen to voters you don't win elections".

"There is a concern that we have to make sure that whatever is implemented is not at the cost of working families," she said.

Read More: 'Right thing to do': Sadiq Khan vows to press on with Ulez expansion despite surprise by-election loss

Mr Khan has nonetheless vowed to press on with the policy, telling LBC: "I’ve lived in London my entire life. During my life, that seat has never been Labour, even in 1997 when Tony Blair won a landslide victory.

“Of course I’m disappointed that Labour didn’t gain this seat for the first time in my lifetime but obviously I welcome the fact there’s been a seven per cent swing to Labour.

“Look, expanding Ulez to all of London wasn’t an easy decision, it was a tough decision but I think it was the right thing for us to do.

“Why? Because we’ve managed to clean up the air for the four million Londoners in inner and central London. What about the five million Londoners in outer London?

“Clean air shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right, so of course I’m listening. That’s why I widened the eligibility for Ulez so every family who receives child benefits, every business that employs up to 50 people, every charity can now have three cars."

Ulez is set to cover all of London from the end of August
Ulez is set to cover all of London from the end of August. Picture: Getty

Read More: Defiant Sunak says general election not a 'done deal' as Tories keep Uxbridge amid Ulez backlash but lose two seats

Steve Tuckwell managed to retain Mr Johnson's former Uxbridge seat for Rishi Sunak's, sparing him from being the first prime minister since 1968 to lose three by-elections on the same day.

Speaking to LBC after his win, Mr Tuckwell also said Ulez was the reason behind his win.

"That determination to push Ulez on Uxbridge and South Ruislip has cost Labour the election this evening," he said.

Elsewhere, Labour secured a record win in Selby and the Liberal Democrats took Somerton and Frome.

Read More: 'It's a case of Ulez you lose', Tom Swarbrick tells Tory chairman as Conservatives retain Uxbridge seat

The Mayor of London is facing a legal challenge from five Tory councils, who have questioned Mr Khan's use of data in justifying the ULEZ expansion.

They include four London councils - Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon - as well as Surrey Council Council, who say there was a "lack of consultation" in expanding the zone.

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