Sadiq Khan has vowed to press ahead with his expansion of the Ultra low emission zone (Ulez) on August 29, despite Labour losing a crucial by-election in an area affected by the plan.
The mayor said he was “disappointed” by the result – which has been widely interpreted by many as a Ulez protest vote – but that extending the clean air zone London-wide continued to be “really important”.
“We know every day that there are people dying prematurely,” said Mr Khan.
“There are children with stunted lungs because of air pollution, adults with a whole load of health issues.
“So we’re going to carry on doing what we can to support Londoners [with the expansion].
“But the reality is that actually 95 per cent of Londoners who drive a car in inner London have a compliant vehicle. In outer London, it’s around 90 per cent.
“Clearly, we need to make sure that more Londoners with non-compliant vehicles have the support they need.”
He said he would “carry on listening” to Londoners about the expansion.
Former prime minister Boris Johnson held the west London seat with a majority of 7,210 in 2019, but the Tories retained it by just 495 votes over Labour in Thursday’s vote, triggered by Mr Johnson’s resignation.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and frontbencher Steve Reed were among those blaming Ulez for the failure to take the west London constituency.
Asked on Friday morning whether Ulez was the main reason for Labour losing the by-election, the mayor said that was a question for “others who have had a chance to examine the results”.
Pressed for his own view, he pointed out that even in the 1997 Labour landslide, the party failed to gain Uxbridge, and “Ulez wasn’t an issue [in 1997], the last time I checked”.
But he added: “Ulez was clearly an issue. We can’t pretend Ulez wasn’t an issue in a seat in outer London.
“The point I’m making is actually, this seat has never been Labour during my lifetime, the context is very important…
“Of course, I’m very disappointed history wasn’t made last night. But we’re going to carry on listening to people in outer London.”
He pointed to City Hall’s decision at the start of June to widen the eligibility criteria for the scrappage scheme, which meant all Londoners receiving child benefit could apply, as well as a larger number of businesses.
The widened criteria also mean London-based charities will be able to scrap or retrofit up to three vans or minibuses, instead of just one.