Sadiq Khan has claimed that Nazis have infiltrated protests against London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion schemes, adding that ‘decent members’ of the Tory Party have been swayed by far-right and conspiracy groups, including ‘anti-vaxxers’ and ‘Covid deniers’.
Khan had already sparked controversy earlier this month when he said during a public Question Time that some people with ‘legitimate objections’ to the ULEZ expansion have been “joining hands” with those from people from ‘far-right groups”.
It seems that the London Mayor has doubled down on his earlier statements, according to The Telegraph. Speaking to the newspaper, which was accused of using divisive rhetoric against cyclists, he claimed that protestors came to Ealing Town Hall a few weeks ago with Swastikas, also adding that Nazi sympathisers had latched on to the protests from “decent Tories” who opposed expanding ULEZ to all 32 London boroughs.
He said that many people opposed ULEZ for good reasons, and he was keen to talk about these problems and would try to address the concerns in the coming weeks.
However, he added: “You need to understand that their opposition has been latched on to by anti-vaxxers, by Covid deniers, conspiracy theorists and Nazis.”
According to the Labour mayor’s plans, the ULEZ – inside which motorists will be charged £12.50 a day for driving non-compliant, high-polluting cars – will be extended to outer London from 29 August, a decision described by Khan as “not easy but necessary to reduce the capital's toxic air pollution”.
As part of the expansion, a £110m scrappage scheme will also be introduced, which aims to provide low-income Londoners with grants of up to £2,000 to replace their high-polluting vehicles.
> Boris Johnson blasts “unnecessary” ULEZ expansion as “mad lefty tax” designed to “rake in money from hard-pressed motorists”
At the People's Question Time event on March 2, Mr Khan had said: “Let’s call a spade a spade; some of those on the outside are part of the far-Right, some are Covid deniers, some are vaccine deniers, and some are Tories.”
Mr Khan's comments sparked anger in the crowd, with members of the public shouting back to the Mayor: “We are not the far-right - normal people are not the far-right.” Conservative Assembly Member Peter Fortune, also at the event, criticised Mr Khan's comments, saying: “You heard it didn’t you? If you disagree with the Mayor, he’s going to paint you as far-right.”
After yesterday's comments, a number of critics lashed out against him. Together Declaration, a group known to push back against cycling and walking schemes like LTNs and 15-minute cities, wrote on Twitter: "'Nazis'" now is it? Shameful & embarrassing from @SadiqKhan. Desperate & despicable slurs can’t mask the truth: Most Londoners don’t want ULEZ extension Perhaps as well as scrapping his unfair tax it’s time @MayorofLondon resigned as well."
Lately, Khan has faced increasing pressure from local authorities to reconsider the expansion. Eleven of the 19 outer London councils have expressed their apprehension towards the scheme – over issues such as the seven-month timescale of implementation (which they believe does not give residents enough time to switch vehicles), the scrappage policy, and poor public transport links – while some councils have even considered legal action.
In January, the Conservative-controlled ‘rebel’ councils of Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Harrow, and Hillingdon released a joint statement on the expansion, saying they would “do everything in our power to stop it from going ahead”.
> “More needs to be done”: Sadiq Khan to “raise awareness” among London cyclists for improving safety of floating bus stops
A London Assembly member accused Khan of treating the city’s residents “with complete and utter contempt” over his attempt to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
Last month, Boris Johnson also accused Sadiq Khan of threatening to impose “a mad lefty tax” on “hard-pressed motorists”, in the latest high-profile attempt to derail the London mayor’s plans.
Amidst the resistance, the Mayor has been arguing that the opposition to the scheme is simply a political strategy by Tory councils who he says are “in the pocket of vested interests”.
While the extremely vocal opposition to the scheme has become a TalkTV staple, the extent to which it represents the average Londoner has been questioned by some on social media.
Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan has defended the ULEZ scheme and labelled it ‘necessary’ to tackle the city’s increasing pollution and congestion.
Responding to a local’s complaints about ULEZ expansion, a spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “With around 4000 Londoners a year dying prematurely from toxic air, it is imperative that the Mayor’s decision to expand the ULEZ should be implemented without delay.
“Research by Imperial College London shows that Bromley has the highest number of premature deaths linked to air pollution of all London boroughs – with an estimated 204 lives lost every year.”
The spokesperson also noted that around 85 percent of vehicles in outer London are already compliant with ULEZ regulations.
They continued: “The Mayor is also calling on the Government to provide additional scrappage funding to London and the surrounding areas.
"The Government has provided millions of pounds for scrappage schemes in other parts of the country, but not given a single penny to London.”
Perhaps this could be another data point for our old friend risk compensation? ...
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