OPINION - The Mayor’s memoir may need rewriting on Ulez
UNLIKE Prince Harry, Sadiq Khan has chosen not to hire a ghost writer for his forthcoming autobiography.
Autobiography, you ask? Isn’t he just writing some woke tome about climate change? I am assured that Breathe (due in bookshops on May 25) will reveal more about the Mayor than might have been expected. A newspaper serialisation may be an outside possibility.
The issue, though, is whether Mr Khan faces an embarrassing edit. For his landmark Londonwide expansion of the ultra-low emission zone to tackle toxic air has hit stormy weather.
First came the lack of popular support: his own consultation was met with about 60 per cent opposition.
Then came the question of whether he sought to interfere with the results. This is strenuously denied — and remains unproven.
But it is possible to argue that Mr Khan has been “economical with the actualite” in his public comments. (He admitted at Mayor’s Question Time that he had received “snapshot” updates and a “working summary” of the responses, but not the full results.)
As it stands, the Ulez expansion is legal and not (yet) the subject of a judicial review. But the voices of disapproval grow. First were suburban Tory MPs. Then came Tory boroughs. Next was a jab from the Prime Minister. Now three Lib-Dem boroughs are considering adopting some delaying tactics.
What could this mean? A campaign of “red tape” disobedience, which may inhibit the rollout of almost 1,000 of the 2,750 CCTV enforcement cameras, is likely.
But it would take a sizeable U-turn for Mr Khan to sanction a delay. He considered the cost-of-living crisis but believes the public health crisis is more pressing. Ditching the expansion would be politically unthinkable.
What does it mean for the next mayoral election, now 15 months away? Fewer Londoners — about 200,000 — are likely to be caught by the Ulez than the furore suggests. (Check your vehicle registration on the TfL website if you are worried.)
Most Londoners want a cleaner London. Many will vote for it. Fewer may be inclined to back the Lib-Dems, who no longer seem to regard the expansion as “right and necessary”. It’s become a proper row. The political battle over Ulez may yet require a rewrite of that final chapter.