THE green zealots who run much of our country thought that this would be a triumphant week, marking a giant leap forward in their quest for radical change in Britain.
The world is laughing at Khan and his hugely unpopular ULEZ scheme[/caption]
Under his plan, which came into effect on Tuesday, the whole of the capital was to be turned into a so-called Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez), where drivers of older, more polluting vehicles were to be punished with a daily charge of £12.50.
Indeed, he was even boasting on the airwaves on Tuesday that, “There’s been lots of people thanking me”.
But his cocoon of fantasy could not be sustained against the wave of fury that swept through London.
Unjust and deceitful
Throughout the capital, other protests were mounted, while number plate recognition cameras — essential for the operation of the scheme — were widely vandalised.
Some had their cables severed, others were covered in paint.
In one road in Orpington, 14 of the 16 cameras were damaged.
Altogether it was estimated that more than 500 Ulez cameras, one quarter of the total, were put out of action.
The scale of the revolt is so great that it has attracted global attention.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal carried an excoriating opinion column headed, “A Net-Zero Car Crash In London”.
Khan’s Ulez has provoked such anger because the initiative is so flawed, unjust and deceitful.
Opponents can see that motorists are being hammered because, in the simplistic world of green politics, they are an easy target.
Dressed up as environmental concern, an act of gigantic extortion is being perpetrated against hard-working, law-abiding Londoners who are just trying to make a living.
Behind all the rhetoric about public health, the cynical aim of the Ulez scheme is to fill the Mayor’s coffers so that he has more money for his endless empire-building and woke stunts.
One recent analysis stated that Ulez could bring in more than £2.5million a day, the equivalent of nearly £1billion a year.
But there will be a terrible price to pay in lost jobs, closed businesses, soaring costs and reduced living standards.
At the very moment when people are struggling with inflation and debt, the Mayor has chosen to add a savage new burden to the straitened budgets of many households and small firms.
It is all right for the corporate giants with their massive turnovers and the affluent with their electric vehicles.
But the care worker or self-employed contractor, who cannot afford a new, Ulez-compliant car, will be clobbered. And for what?
There is little evidence that the scheme will bring many health benefits.
One study by Imperial College after Ulez began in central London in 2019 showed that it reduced nitrogen dioxide by just three per cent and would have little impact on other forms of pollution.
“The Ulez on its own is not an effective strategy in the sense that the marginal casual effects are small,” said the report.
The public instinctively grasps this reality.
They know that motorists are being fleeced, that this is a regressive tax on the poor to pay for ideological self-indulgence and political vanity.
What we are now witnessing is the first rebellion by the British people against the expensive, bullying net zero programme.
More revolts will follow, of even greater intensity.
If the Mayor thinks the anger will dissipate now his scheme is established, he is resorting to the worst kind of wishful thinking.
Just as happened with the poll tax in 1990, the mood of discontent will grow.
Tellingly, many of this week’s anti-Ulez protesters carried placards with the words, “Can’t pay, won’t pay”, which was the slogan of the poll tax rebellion.
Labour loves talking about being both progressive and the party of the NHS.
How does the Mayor square this with hitting low-paid hospital cleaners and porters — who work late so cannot rely on public transport — with a charge so punitive that some will be forced to turn down shifts or overtime, making life harder for the health service in the process?
The public have already started destroying ULEZ cameras in parts of London[/caption]
Attacking motorists is always dangerous for any political party.
The only time that the Tories were ahead in the polls during Tony Blair’s first government was in 2000, when huge nationwide protests were mounted against soaring fuel duties.
As supplies ran short, more than 3,000 petrol stations were temporarily closed and the Government was forced to climb down on its plan to raise further levies.
Yet the Tories cannot be complacent.
Over their last 13 years in office, they have been just as wedded to the green agenda as the Opposition.
Soaring energy prices and new green taxes have happened on their watch, just as they have pledged to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030.
Moreover, they have done nothing to challenge Khan seriously, despite making lukewarm noises of disapproval.
“I don’t have the power to stop this,” bleated Transport Secretary Mark Harper, though many felt he was not trying.
It was revealing that this week’s protests took place outside Downing Street and the number of anti-Sunak placards seemed just as great as the anti-Khan ones.
Both parties are in the dock, and will only regain trust once they start to listen to the people — instead of exploiting them.