Sadiq Khan vows to press on with ULEZ despite by-election hit

Sadiq Khan vows to press on with ULEZ despite by-election hit

July 21, 2023

Defiant Sadiq Khan vows to press on with hated ULEZ expansion despite Angela Rayner and Labour MPs blaming policy for Uxbridge by-election failure and urging him to ‘listen to voters’

  • Tories hold Uxbridge & South Ruislip but lose two other by-election contests

Sadiq Khan vowed to push on with his hated ULEZ expansion today despite Labour figures complaining it wrecked their efforts to seize Uxbridge & South Ruislip from the Tories.

The London Mayor dismissed concerns after Angela Rayner joined calls to look again at the plans to expand the driver charging zone.

He pointedly said that the seat had ‘never been Labour in my lifetime’, insisting the £12.50 a day levy will ‘clear the air’ in the capital.  

Mr Khan was branded the ‘loser of the night’ after the Tories unexpectedly clung on to Boris Johnson’s old seat by 500 votes.

However, the wider picture for Mr Sunak was grim – with the alarming sight of Labour comfortably overturning a massive majority to gain the former stronghold of Selby & Ainsty.

The Conservatives were also trounced by the Liberal Democrats in Somerton & Frome as their 19,000-vote margin from the last general election crumbled.

The Tories’ new Uxbridge MP Steve Tuckwell admitted his victory was down to the unpopularity of ULEZ. Labour frontbenchers said the party must now ‘reflect’ on the policy.

Labour deputy leader Ms Rayner said ‘there is no getting away from’ the fact that ULEZ was ‘the major issue’. She warned people ‘can’t afford’ the levy amid the cost of living crisis – but blamed the government for failing to fund a scrappage scheme. 

‘The Uxbridge result shows that when you don’t listen to the voters, you don’t win elections,’ she said. 

Asked about the Uxbridge result on a visit to a cafe in central London today, Mr Khan said

The London Mayor dismissed concerns after Angela Rayner (pictured in Selby with Keir Starmer, left and new MP Keir Mather, centre) joined calls to look again at the plans to expand the driver charging zone 

Victorious Tory candidate Steve Tuckwell shakes hands with his Labour rival Danny Beales after being declared the winner of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election

Mr Tuckwell immediately credited his victory in the west London constituency to the unpopularity of Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ expansion in the capital


The Conservatives clung onto Uxbridge and South Ruislip, in west London, by less than 500 votes to avert a complete by-election wipeout

But the Tory majority in Somerton and Frome crumbled as the Lib Dems won the by-election by 11,000 votes

The Tories also lost another huge majority in Selby and Ainsty as Labour gained the North Yorkshire seat by more than 4,000 votes

By-election results in full

Uxbridge and South Ruislip – Conservative HOLD

Steve Tuckwell, Tories: 13,965 votes (45.16%)

Danny Beales, Labour: 13,470 votes (43.56%)

Sarah Green, Green: 893 votes (2.89%) 

Somerton and Frome – Lib Dem GAIN from Tories

Sarah Dyke, Lib Dem: 21,187 votes (54.62%)

Faye Purbrick, Tories: 10,179 votes (26.24%)

Martin Dimery, Green: 3,944 votes (10.17%) 

Selby and Ainsty – Labour GAIN from Tories

Keir Mather, Labour: 16,456 votes (45.96%)

Claire Holmes, Tories: 12,295 votes (34.34%)

Arnold Warneken, Green: 1,838 votes (5.13%)

Asked about the Uxbridge result on a visit to a cafe in central London today, Mr Khan said: ‘Of course I am disappointed that this seat, which has never been Labour in my lifetime, didn’t go (to) Labour last night.

‘Obviously I welcome the 7% swing to Labour in this outer London seat and we are determined to clear the air in London.’

Pollsters suggested the outcome has implications for swing seats near London such as Harlow and Thurrock. 

After being declared the by-election winner after a recount of votes, Mr Tuckwell said: ‘This message from Uxbridge and South Ruislip residents is clear; Sadiq Khan has lost Labour this election and we know it was his damaging and costly ULEZ policy that lost them this election.’

The Tory victory in Uxbridge means Mr Sunak escapes becoming the first PM for 55 years – since Labour’s Harold Wilson in 1968 – to lose three seats at by-elections on the same day. 

But the bad results in Somerton and Selby will rattle Tory MPs already worried about their chances of keeping Labour out of power at the general election, which is expected next year.

A Labour source pointed to Selby and Ainsty being a ‘true blue’ Tory seat near to Mr Sunak’s own constituency.

The victory was the largest Conservative majority overturned by Labour at a by-election since 1945, after the Tories won the seat with a 20,000-vote majority at the 2019 general election.

The previous record was set at the Mid Staffordshire by-election in March 1990, when Labour overturned a Tory majority of 14,654. 

The source said Labour’s win showed ‘colossal progress’ and was a ‘real disaster’ for the Tories.

They claimed a similar swing to Labour across constituencies at the general election would give them more House of Commons seats than they won under Tony Blair in 1997.

Sir Keir said: ‘This is an historic result that shows that people are looking at Labour and seeing a changed party that is focused entirely on the priorities of working people with an ambitious, practical plan to deliver.

‘Keir Mather will be a fantastic MP who will deliver the fresh start Selby and Ainsty deserves.

‘It is clear just how powerful the demand for change is. Voters put their trust in us — many for the first time.

‘After 13 years of Tory chaos, only Labour can give the country its hope, its optimism and its future back.’

In his victory speech, Mr Mather – who will now become the youngest MP in the Commons at the age of 25 – said the party had ‘rewritten the rules on where Labour can win’, adding: ‘People have opened their doors to us and embraced our positive vision for the future.’

Tory chairman Greg Hands claimed his party’s defeat in Selby & Ainsty was mainly driven by Conservative voters staying home.

He told GB News: ‘Clearly we’re disappointed by the result in Selby and Ainsty. We had a fantastic candidate in Claire Holmes.

‘What I would say is that result was driven largely by Conservative voters, previous Conservative voters, staying home.

‘Clearly we’ve got work to do to win back the trust and confidence, we don’t deny that.

‘Rishi Sunak has been in office now for nine months working very hard against the five priorities of halving inflation, restoring growth, reducing debt, cutting hospital waiting lists and stopping the boats. That is still work in progress.

‘We’ll be fighting hard to regain that constituency next year.’

But it was not all good news for Sir Keir following Labour’s failure to also take Uxbridge & South Ruislip off the Tories. 

Sarah Dyke will be the new MP in Somerton and Frome after securing a Lib Dem by-election victory by 11,000 votes following a dramatic swing away from the Tories

Ms Rayner told BBC Breakfast her mood was ‘one of reflection’.

‘I mean, congratulations to Keir Mather in Selby because it was a historic win, but we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground and, of course, Uxbridge wasn’t the result, we narrowly lost again in that seat,’ she said.

‘I think one of the things we have to reflect on today is not only the mood against the Tories, but also the decision in Uxbridge was related to Ulez.

‘The Uxbridge result shows that when you don’t listen to the voters, you don’t win elections.’

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed suggested Mr Khan needed to ‘reflect’ on the by-election result in Uxbridge & South Ruislip, as Labour would be doing ‘even better’ if the policy changed.

‘I think there’s been a number of issues at play, but there has certainly been a number of voters who have said to us that they are very concerned about ULEZ. Everyone wants to see clean air,’ he said.

‘But for some people, I think, given the chaos that there is in the economy, because the Conservatives have crashed it and the cost-of-living crisis that they fuelled, that this is the wrong time to introduce a charge for ULEZ.

‘The Mayor of London has called on the Government to fund a scrappage scheme, that means there wouldn’t be a need for charges and that’s the position that Labour’s candidate supported, as well.’

He added: ‘I think when the voters speak, any party that seeks to govern has to listen,’ he said. ‘So that’s what Labour will be doing after this.’

Susan Hall, the Tory candidate to run against Mr Khan at next year’s London mayoral election, said: ‘The message from Uxbridge and South Ruislip residents is loud and clear: Sadiq Khan and his disastrous ULEZ expansion have got to go.

‘Next May, voters can make that happen and choose a better, brighter future for our city.’

Polling expert and Tory peer Lord Hayward told MailOnline: ‘The big loser on the night is Sadiq Khan. He will get the blame, but Keir Starmer will have to answer the questions.’

He added: ‘This has implications not just for London suburbs, but there are places like Harlow and Thurrock, for all of which ULEZ is an important issue.’

Lord Hayward said combined with slightly brighter inflation figures this week Mr Sunak would be ‘much more comfortable than he expected’ going into the summer recess, but ‘still not comfortable’. 

The Lib Dem victory in Somerton and Frome is the party’s fourth by-election win since 2019 and will cause further angst among Tory MPs in ‘Blue Wall’ seats ahead of the next general election.

Sarah Dyke will now be the new MP in the Somerset constituency after securing a by-election victory by 11,000 votes following a dramatic swing away from the Tories.

She hailed her win in the Somerset seat as a ‘stunning and historic victory’.

A recount of Tory and Labour votes was ordered in Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbidge and South Ruislip

Ms Dyke hailed her win in the Somerset seat as a ‘stunning and historic victory’

Ms Dyke said: ‘It shows once and for all the Liberal Democrats are back in the West Country.

‘Lifelong Conservative voters have today voted Liberal Democrat for the first time.

‘Thank you for putting your trust in me to deliver for you. I will not let you down.

‘And let me say a particular thank you to all those who usually vote Labour or Green, but lent me your votes this time.

‘There’s no doubt that our electoral system is broken, but you have shown that the Conservatives can still be beaten under it.’

She added: ‘People here have been left without a voice in Parliament for far too long. That changes right now.

‘Instead of an absent Conservative MP letting you down, you have an active Liberal Democrat MP lifting you up.’

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘This stunning victory shows the Liberal Democrats are firmly back in the West Country.

‘Sarah Dyke will be an incredible local champion for the people of Somerset who have been neglected for far too long.

‘She will fight for stronger local health services, better access to GPs and a fair deal for rural communities during this cost of living crisis.

‘The people of Somerton and Frome have spoken for the rest of the country who are fed up with Rishi Sunak’s out-of-touch Conservative Government.’

Sir Ed had expressed confidence of a win in Somerton and Frome on Thursday night

Sir Ed made a reference to a Lib Dem stunt at the launch of their local elections campaign earlier this year, where they used a tractor to drive through the Tories’ ‘Blue Wall’

The Lib Dems had been declaring themselves the victors in the seat less than two hours after polls closed last night, while Sir Ed emailed supporters to boast his party was set for ‘another historic result’. 

Prior to the official result being announced, Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine had confidently claimed the party had ‘romped home’ and the Conservative vote was ‘collapsing’.

The seat was won by David Warburton for the Tories at the 2015 general election and he defended it in 2017 and 2019.

It had previously been held by the Lib Dems between 1997 and 2015 as part of their traditional West Country strongholds.

Mr Warburton quit the House of Commons last month after admitting cocaine use and amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

Sir Ed’s fourth by-election victory as Lib Dem leader means he is the first leader of any party since Paddy Ashdown in the 1990s to win four by-elections.

Votes are counted at Queensmead Sports Centre in South Ruislip, west London

Ballot papers were also being tallied at Selby Leisure Centre in Selby, North Yorkshire

Ballot boxes arrive at the Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, as counting begins in the Somerton and Frome by-election

Representatives from Labour and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party attend the count at the Selby and Ainsty by-election

What by-elections were happening and why?

Uxbridge & South Ruislip, West London

Triggered by the resignation of Boris Johnson after a controversial Partygate report found he deliberately misled the Commons.

Selby & Ainsty, North Yorkshire

Called following the exit of Mr Johnson’s ally Nigel Adams amid a row over not getting a peerage on the ex-PM’s honours list. 

Somerton & Frome, Somerset

Prompted by David Warburton quitting after admitting cocaine use amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Despite Labour’s failure in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, senior MP Peter Kyle – the shadow Northern Ireland secretary – said, prior to the result being declared, that victory in Selby and Ainsty would be ‘a truly historic moment’.

‘In singulairty it would eclipse some of the achievements we made in 1997,’ he added.

Labour chair Anneliese Dodds had attempted to play down her party’s chances last night before votes were counted in the three by-election contests.

She told BBC’s Newsnight: ‘We have a situation here of three constituencies that have never returned a Labour MP.

‘If Labour were to win in Uxbridge then that would require a bigger swing that we even had in the 1997 landslide election.

‘If we win in Selby and Ainsty, it would require the biggest swing to Labour ever in a by-election.

‘So these are incredibly challenging elections for Labour.’

Andrew Jones, Tory MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, had predicted the Selby and Ainsty result would be ‘very close’.

‘Obviously we are defending a big majority, we all know what the numbers are, but obviously, as well, this has been a period of extreme political turbulence and anything can happen in a by-election,’ he told the BBC.

Mr Jones dismissed suggestions Mr Sunak’s position as PM would be in peril if the Tories lost all three seats.

In a message to his fellow Tory MPs, he said: ‘We’ve just got to get our head down, work, and get through this period.

‘I’ve not felt any sense the Labour Party was pulling people into them.

‘I’ve sensed frustration, particularly in the cause of this by-election – the sitting MP (Nigel Adams) walking away has been a sense of disappointment, and that’s putting it quite mildly.’

Tory MP Sir Robert Buckland, the former Welsh secretary, had claimed it was ‘highly likely’ his party could lose all three by-elections.

A Tory source was also downbeat about the party’s chances in all three seats as polling stations closed last night.

They said: ‘There’s no doubt that this was always going to be a very challenging set of by-elections, especially given the circumstances in which they were brought about.

‘We have to wait for the results to come in, but by-elections are rarely won by governing parties and they are rarely good indicators of general election performance.

‘Across all of these campaigns we have heard zero enthusiasm for Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party and their lack of answers.

‘We now need to redouble our efforts earning back the trust of voters by delivering on our plan to halve inflation, grow the economy , reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats.’

The Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election was triggered by Mr Johnson’s resignation from the Commons last month, amid his anger at another Partygate probe finding against him.

Selby and Ainsty, in North Yorkshire, was vacated by ex-minister Mr Adams – an ally of Mr Johnson – who quit the Commons a day after the former premier following a row over a peerage. 

The contest in Somerton and Frome, in Somerset, was triggered by the resignation of Mr Warburton as the local MP.

Prior to the by-election result being declared, Ms Jardine claimed taking the Somerset constituency off the Tories would be a ‘watershed moment’ for the Lib Dems.

‘It would prove yet again that in vast swathes of the country, from Somerset to Surrey, the best way to get rid of this Conservative government is to vote for the Liberal Democrats,’ she said.

The Tories had recently retained hope they could cling onto Uxbridge and South Ruislip due to a local backlash against the ULEZ expansion.

Labour’s candidate in the constituency, Danny Beales, recently demanded a delay to the ULEZ expansion despite him having previously signalled support for the move.

David Simmonds, Tory MP for the neighbouring Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner seat, last night suggested the ULEZ backlash would stave off a Conservative defeat.

‘Labour went into the election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip with a 40-point lead in London, so clearly we’ve been fighting an uphill battle,’ he told Sky News.

‘But the feedback on the doorsteps about our candidate, Steve Tuckwell, has been really positive.

‘And ULEZ, which was an issue before the by-election was even called, has definitely cut through.’

The Tories retain some hope they could yet cling on to Uxbridge and South Ruislip, in west London, where there has been a local backlash against the ULEZ expansion

The seat of Selby and Ainsty, in North Yorkshire, was vacated by ex-minister Nigel Adams following a row over a peerage

The contest in Somerton and Frome, in Somerset, was triggered by the resignation of David Warburton as the local MP after admitting cocaine use amid allegations of sexual harassment

A Labour spokesman had tried to dampen expectations of a double victory for Sir Keir as polling stations closed last night.

They said: ‘It’s going to be some time before we get any results. But what we do know is that none of these seats have ever had a Labour MP before, so they were always going to be a challenge.

‘We didn’t even win Uxbridge in 1997 and to win Selby and Ainsty would require us to overturn the biggest majority in our history.

‘So while we don’t know if we’ve made it over the line, it’s clear that Keir Starmer’s leadership of a changed Labour Party, back in the service of working people, has seen voters put their trust in us — many for the first time.’

On Wednesday night, Mr Sunak issued a rallying call to Tory MPs despite admitting the three by-election contests would be a ‘tough battle’.

At an end-of-term meeting of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee, before Parliament’s summer recess, the PM appealed for his MPs to unite regardless of the by-election results and pledged to ‘throw everything’ at winning the next general election.

Mr Sunak said: ‘In the coming months, I am going to set out more of what I would do if I had a full term.

‘I was recently described as a full spectrum modern Conservative and you are going to see that in the programme I lay out.’

The PM also vowed to show the public ‘who is really on their side’, adding: ‘And that is what will propel us to victory.’

On Thursday, Sir Keir urged voters to ‘vote for change’ in the three by-elections, posting on Twitter: ‘Where you start, shouldn’t determine where you end up.

‘When you work hard, you should be able to get on. Labour’s mission to grow a secure economy in Britain will mean your ambition is realised.’

Mr Johnson held Uxbridge and South Ruislip with a 7,000 majority when he was prime minister at the last general election in 2019.

Mr Adams secured North Yorkshire’s Selby and Ainsty with a 20,000 majority that night, a similar margin to Mr Warburton’s victory in Somerton and Frome.

The PM’s press secretary this week acknowledged it would be tough for the Tories to hold the three seats on Thursday.

She said: ‘By-elections, for incumbent governments, are very difficult, that is the nature of them.

‘The election that the Conservative Party is most focused on is the general election.’

Sir Keir’s spokesman downplayed Labour’s chances, saying Uxbridge and South Ruislip was not won even during the party’s 1997 landslide victory under Tony Blair, while Selby and Ainsty would require their best by-election result since the Second World War.

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