Ulez became a lightning rod, a moment when politicians had to face up to the fury of people having yet another tax imposed on them.
The three by-elections held on Thursday 21st July sent the same message to all the parties, yet the most interesting and revealing was the result in Uxbridge.
It was superficially about a single issue – the imposition of an unwanted Ulez on Uxbridge residents.
Ulez became a lightning rod, a moment when politicians had to face up to the fury of people having yet another tax imposed on them, in this case by the Mayor of London.
The Conservatives offered a clear choice and the electorate responded. The vote also revealed that support for Labour was, as one abstaining voter said to me, “a mile wide and an inch deep”.
The lesson therefore to take from this by-election is much greater than just the issue of Ulez, important as that is. Voters are angry – angry that their taxes are high and that their cost of living is too high.
They are also angry that the establishment obsession with net zero has led to an arbitrary and very costly 2030 deadline to get rid of diesel and petrol cars, even though it could cripple our car industry, flood the market with cheap Chinese cars and pile further costs on people’s already stretched incomes. Not to mention the very expensive upcoming ban on new gas boilers as well.
The Government, recognising the clear anger of voters at Sadiq Khan’s extra emissions tax, sent back a simple message: the Conservatives agreed with them. The vital lesson here is that we asked the electorate to make a clear choice.
It was one that resonated even with angry Tories, who, instead of staying at home or voting for another party, voted Conservative, despite their anger.
Elsewhere in Somerton and Frome and Selby, the same point resonated. Only in these two seats Conservatives were defending policies from harsh net zero targets, family tax rates, and upper-rate tax thresholds that have angered our voters, forcing them to stay at home or even vote against us.
I wasn’t surprised. Last May, I campaigned in different areas during the council elections and got the same message. People were angry with us and wanted us to recognise it. It isn’t like 1996-97, for at this moment back in 1996 the electorate had made their decision to vote for Tony Blair. Uxbridge showed that given the right choice they might yet vote Conservative.
The point is that the right choice has to be a clear Conservative one. One that reduces the burdens on families and businesses. One that is open about the true cost of this rush to net zero. One that recognises the need to get there without an ideology that places huge burdens on taxpayers. And one that stands up to the virtue-signalling minority who want to indoctrinate our children and destroy our right to free speech.
While Selby and Somerton and Frome showed us what happens if voters don’t discern any distinctive difference, Uxbridge gave us the alternative: a reminder of what happens when we follow our instincts and offer that clear choice.