Opinion : Heroes and villains

Ulez protests

In the past decade we have seen a series of politicians, hailed as messiahs by their followers, achieving great success followed by a spectacular crash and burn. Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon come to mind and, going further back in time, we have Tony Blair.

So, what of London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) from central London to the borders of the capital, encompassing a further five million Londoners? All this is due to come into force on 29 August 2023.

People have to pay a £12.50 daily fee to drive in the zone if their car does not meet emissions standards. Cameras are used to track vehicles and check if they need to pay. Several of the Councils due to be incorporated in the expanded zone unsuccessfully took legal action in an effort to thwart the plan.

ULEZ, London, UK - April 8 2019: ULEZ (Ultra low emission zone)

I am not going to voice an opinion on the wisdom of the ULEZ scheme. I do not live in London, I do not drive on its roads or have to breathe its air. I am sure there will be plenty of debate in the comments section below. However, I do admire Sadiq Khan for his sheer audacity, the reasons for which I will outline below.

I think that, when we go the polls, most of us vote for the candidate who we reckon will make us financially better off, and there is a subtle difference between that and making the country a more pleasant place to live in. In a nutshell, we want more money in our pockets and frown upon those we believe will make us worse off.

Sadiq Khan’s plans will impoverish many Londoners who can’t afford to buy a vehicle which meets the ULEZ requirements. I have recently discussed how the transition to all electric power may completely overturn the current ‘Bangernomics’ model, forcing many people off the road due to the high cost and inflexibility of electric vehicles – see my Opinion : Are Trends Electric? article, which was published on AROnline back in March.

So, in my opinion, for a politician to deliberately risk unpopularity takes a lot of courage. For a historical parallel, we need to go back to Ernest Marples (below), the Minister for Transport in the Conservative Government of 1959-1964. Marples was a bit of a rogue, now best remembered as a villain for sponsoring Dr Richard Beeching’s pruning of the railway network.

Ernest Marples

During his tenure in office there was a viral campaign, ‘Marples Must Go’, but one suspects that the real reason for the Minister’s unpopularity was the introduction of the MoT test in September 1960. At first it was voluntary, but then became compulsory from February 1961 and applied to all vehicle over ten years old, before being reduced to seven years in 1962 and three years in 1967.

The new MoT test, at a stroke, forced motorists to either stump up the cash to keep their vehicle roadworthy or send it to the scrapyard, and sent many pre-War cars to the great breaker’s yard in the skies.

Because of Ernest Marples, many motorists had never had it so bad. Marples committed the cardinal sin of impoverishing some of the electorate. However, I suspect that the introduction of the annual MoT is now seen in a more positive light, forcing many a death trap on wheels off the nations highway.

So, is Sadiq Khan a hero or a villain? We shall just have to await the verdict of history…

Ian Nicholls
Latest posts by Ian Nicholls (see all)


  1. The idea is visionary. Trying to clean up London’s air is commendable. However the way he has gone about it is wrong. The scrappage scheme has been a failure, the expansion of public transport hasn’t happened (mainly because ToL is running out of cash) which should have been in place first, and the cost of £12.50 a day is madness in a cost of living crisis. He should have introduced it with a lower price, improved the public transport offering and then increased the price to give people more chance to move to cleaner vehicles or change over to public transport.

    • Agree its all stick and no carrot. If they had taken the public with them and helped them adapt this would not have become the issue it has.

  2. The whole idea is based upon the totally unrealistic aim of no new IC engined vehicles by 2030 . It is becoming ever more clear on a daily basis that the all electric revolution will never happen because of a. the lack of charging facilities ; b. the time taken to charge vehicles and c . the lack of Grid capacity to provide charge without the lights going out. If one adds to that the dangers of the vehicles and their means of charging in the shape of uncontrollable fires, and the lack of raw materials for battery provision on a universal scale , the idea, although nominally a good one , is dead in the water.

    • Yep – when politicians come up with these well intentioned policies they forget that they then need to get off their lazy bone idle back sides and actually do something to implement them

    • ULEZ has little if anything to do with Electrification, its requirements are

      Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles (L category)
      Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles
      Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles

      As you can see it is not very restrictive, with Euro 4 having been a requirement on new cars since 2005.

  3. “So for a politician to deliberately risk unpopularity takes in my opinion a lot of courage”

    On the contrary it takes zero courage. Today’s western politicians regardless of party are mostly interchangeable and care not a jot for ordinary voters (or ‘tax donkeys’ as they see them).

    For today’s politicians public office serves as a chance to demonstrate their commitment and fealty to the policies of the WEF elite. When they eventually leave office, they will get a couple of well paid (probably publically funded) gigs in quangos or on the international speaker circuit. Just like the American warmongers rewarded Tony Blair for his standing by George (“who’s this Blair guy?”) Bush with the hundreds of millions he presently enjoys.

    • Unlike the populist ones that promise to be different, but only in the way they will rip-off us all off by winning over the short of thinking!?

  4. Ulez is about Nox levels, The UK is under duress from the EU over levels of Nox in major cities such as London, ( I know we are out but the legal action began before Brexit ) Petrol cars, even 20 year old cars produce very little Nox,they are not the problem, diesel cars are the problem, inherently high-Nox producers, even new diesels Euro 6, many exceed their not-to-exceed limits by a factor of 5, (those once-secret cheat codes in the ECU ) we are under duress for Nox levels for driving diesels, yet we were pushed into buying the diesel car by the EU policymakers. Is there any common sense in politicians thinking?

    • Can show when and where the EU “pushed you” into buying a diesel.

      As for ULEZ, Nox is part of its requirements.

      Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles
      Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and minibuses and other specialist vehicles

  5. Apart from the controversy within London itself, regional/devolved schemes are always going to be more controversial, as they create boundaries where people outside the area are affected by the scheme but have no say, whereas decisions made by a national government are made by a body under the democratic control of all the public.

    If the public didn’t like the MoT test or the seatbelt law brought in by Barbara Castle, they could vote against that government, whereas someone living 5 minutes outside the London boundary will be directly affected if their old car or van doesn’t meet the ULEZ conditions, but can’t vote against the London Mayor at an election.

  6. The government promoted diesel cars knowing they were high in NOX and particulates. Now in the working life of these same vehicles people are being penalised for using them. It’s dysfunctional.

  7. Can I ask if the 50+ MPG of diesels, and hence lower cost to run, played a part in DERV take up? Add on the turbo to give reasonable performance and everyone wanted one.

    • @MrMagoo, I went diesel in 2000 as the petrol car i had averaged 33 mpg and a diesel would offer me 15 mpg more, and as this was an old school diesel with no fancy electronics and a DPF to go wrong, I decided to buy a diesel. Millions of motorists at the time were swayed by diesel cars, which offered petrol performance, excellent economy and engines that could do 150k miles without a fault so long as they were serviced regularly. However, once diesel prices overtook petrol and the engines became more complicated, I went back to petrol. Nowadays, unless you run a fleet of commercial vehicles or do mega miles, diesel is a dead duck.

      • Exactly! I’ve got a Toyota Yaris hybrid that returns diesel like MPG figures without all the unpleasant side effects.

        • Few cars of the size of the Yaris were diesel powered, even during the “peak diesel” years. It’s mid rangers and larger vehicles where diesel dominated, as the mpg figures, especially when cruising, are so much better.

          I remember an episode of Top Gear where they had to drive from Switzerland to Blackpool on a tank of fuel, and Clarkson did that in a diesel X350 XJ without even trying, such was its economy.

        • Perhaps cars of more equal sizes, I had a Prius (1.8) and it managed 49 MPG on average on long motorway journeys and 50 around town. It was noisy on the M/Way and accelerating up to speed was sonically painful with the ‘CVT’ gearbox causing excessive engine revving. The 2.0 TDi Octavia that replaced it averaged 55 at the same motorway speeds but 40’s around town, and a Toyota Corolla Verso (2.2) diesel I have had since 2007 will average high 50’s or even into the 60’s on a motorway run but is in the 30’s around town. An Octavia 1.5 TSi eco (petrol with cylinder deactivation) I had once averaged 66 MPG over 200 slow motorway miles and was in the mid 40’s around town. It’s horses for courses and I find hybrids have an advantage in urban areas but are pretty inefficient and unpleasant on motorways.

          • My Yaris need a little revving to get up to speed but once at 70 it seems to move along OK without much noise, even on a long drive. The eCVT seems to help keep things running smoothly.

  8. I have a Skoda Fabia with the basic 1 litre engine and this can return a maximum of 65 mog, when driving at 50-60 mph on the flat. Typically it will do 57 mog on a long journey that involves motorways and urban driving and around town will return 48 mpg. This is similar to what a small TDI would return 10 years ago and Skoda stopped making diesel Fabias five years ago as the demand had dried up.

    • I think the best VW small car diesel was the 1.4 litre 3 cylinder (75 BHP). I had it in a Polo and it did a true 60 MPG averaging 80 MPH on a long run (lime length of M40 or M6 from Preston to Scotland). I also had a Fabia vRS, the MK1 1.9 diesel (130 BHP) and I averaged 50-55 MPG in that, usually nearer the 50 because it was hilarious and I used to get along quite quickly in it. I think the turbo diesel was the best motorway car. certainly better than my current company car EV that I crawl along in because the charging point might not even be working.

  9. That VW 1.9 tdi 130 engine was spectacularly good. Would pull my 2 Ton Galaxy with a load on board of another three quarters of a Ton, with blissful ease.
    Did over 50mpg on holiday runs round the Lake District, never less than 35mpg even when doing door to door deliveries. Such a practical and comfortable car, no DPF to worry about,and really quick (Leeds to Ramsgate in 3 hrs 20 mins once at 42mpg).

  10. Ultimately ULEZ is a money making racket, see also eating sugary food, speeding fines and the alleged climate crisis, driving an allegedly polluting car into a city is so bad that you may end the world and yet its ok to do it providing your money can be stolen for doing so, really? So, tell me this, how much of the £12.50 is used to pay for already rich c*nts to stay in the manner to which they somehow think they’re entitled to and how much of it is used to fix the alleged crisis and how

    • You own a well maintained ten year old van that always passes its MOT and passes its emissions test. Khan now expects you to either scrap the vehicle or pay his useless GLA £12.50 a day for using it. It’s hardly very green to scrap vehicles that are in good working order and ULEZ is another money making racket for this useless mayor who has done nothing for London. OTOH anyone looking for a decent older van outside London might find hundreds for sale as the deadline approaches.

      • You can sell the vehicle if you don’t want to scrap it, a ten year old van well maintained with a full MOT would attract a nice premium and a van registered on or after September 2015 (so eight years old) will be Euro 6.

        • @ Graham, I can see plenty of vans from this era being for sale in London in the next couple of months and buyers from outside the capital obtaining some decent bargains. Someone with a 2014 Sprinter with FSH and average miles should attract plenty of interest from buyers outside London.

      • Yeah, there’s a strong climate change denial element on this site which I find quite off putting, given how much I like the site generally. It’s not a good look and while I’m not about to quit the site right now, it does give me pause for thought.

        • And, what I should have said, this is about breathable air. An inalienable right surely. Are you going to stamp your feet and complain about being denied the right to play with your toys when people can’t breathe?Seriously?

          • It’s surprising what people will sacrifice on the off-chance they will be better off in other ways!

        • Standhill : have you considered how eliminating pollution from London will affect matters in global terms . You only have to fly across Asia (particularly at night when it is more obvious for some reason) to see how coal fired power stations belch out pollutants at a quite inconceivable rate , which substances are carried round the world by global circulation within about 1 week, to realise that the ULEZ is utterly pointless . I presume you are too young to remember the smog of the late 40s/early 50s to see that a huge improvement in air quality has already been made, and any further improvements will be marginal

  11. 2014 Sprinter, average annual 20K miles which would be typical… (OK, 15K per year maybe if it’s not being worked hard) will be worth a pittance.

    Not attractive to any business, whether inside or outside the M25, when they could lease a new one for £450 a month and it’s a totally legit offset against tax.

    Businesses are not into bangernomics, well, not the successful ones.

  12. I do wonder about the likes of window cleaners and ice cream van owners, who seem to use these old vans, but possibly they’ll be looking into buying newer vans with the scrappage money. However, there will still be hundreds of vans in good condition that are going to be scrapped.

    • Most ice cream vans in London are modern. After all, they’ll have needed a modern vehicle to get into the existing ULEZ zone.

  13. One thing where I think the Mayor get unfair criticism, is over the idea that charging £12.50 for non compliant vehicles is somehow hypocritical, and that he should just ban such vehicles completely.

    What this ignores, is that there will individuals with older vehicles who make very few journeys. If you only drive infrequently, it might make sense to keep your older vehicle and just pay the charge. Such low mileage vehicles will make little difference to air quality. The idea that it will be exploited by rich people, who’ll just drive their non compliant vehicles and pay the £12.50 is laughable.

  14. Not London, but the Scottish Borders have a blanket 20 mph speed limit in most built up areas. Roads that are perfectly safe with 30 mph speed limits now have 20 zones practically to the edge of the built up areas. This means you are constantly watching your speed, adding to a potential road safety hazard, and driving a car in third or second leads to heavier fuel consumption and more emissions.

  15. I’m sorry Mr standhill, but I’m old enough to remember when science was a never ending pursuit of the facts, but apparently now ‘the science is settled ‘. Who decided that, you, Greta thunburg or Klaus Schwab? Here in Australia we have punishingly high power prices too, we’ve shut our coal fired power stations, yet it’s ok for china to build 200 in the next two years, and it’s ok for our government to dig up and provide the coal for them to operate? Whose coal is it anyway? Who profits from this and who suffers? Here in South Australia, good folks invented cat converters to sit atop the chimneys and take out 95% of all emissions, but you’ll never be allowed to know that, well because. If everyone could afford electric vehicles, the grid would collapse and the earth would suffer tremendously, but I guess that doesn’t matter because we’re global warming deniers?

    • I guess it’s a case of business is business, but the real benefactors don’t want you to know that!

    • This is whataboutery. Other countries are doing nothing so we shouldn’t bother. And because you don’t like facts you choose to question their veracity.Have you been watching the news? Do you see what’s happening with the climate?

      • Did you actually read what I said? We supply the coal to fire those power generators but you’re good with that? So you’re fine with me paying top dollar for power whilst my government makes bank? Is that whataboutism?Govern me harder daddy. I live in the driest state on the driest continent yet we haven’t had a decent summer since 2018 so no I don’t believe in what some stranger from another country tells me on the internet I’m way more inclined to believe what I see with my own eyes. We used to have a water shortage in this country, but now we’re importing 600k people in the next two years, with serious lack of infrastructure and housing shortages. Trust your newspapers and government all you like champ, I can think for myself thank you very much

        • Don’t give dumb ockers / bogans a bad name, though your Trump lump textbook spewings shows someone’s getting to you in spite of your claims to the contrary!

          Also thanks for being so defeatist in your arguments, a sure sign you being played for a fool!

          • I guess if you have no argument against what I say, insulting me will show your intelligence. How am I being defeatist, by pointing out that you are fine with china running 200 generators on coal we supply yet we can’t use it ourselves?

  16. And to be clear, no I no longer watch tv, as the recent pandemic proved they will only say as the government allows. Back to this article, I feel sorry for you if you believe your government has your best interests at heart, both your govt and mine have clearly proven that this is not the case

    • Chris, Australia had some of the most draconian COVID restrictions that made places like Melkbourne feel like North Korea.These only suppressed the virus for a short time and only the belated introduction of vaccinations saw the government see sense and stop treating its citizens like they were prisoners. Your state premiers in Victoria and New South Wales would have made really good gauleiters the way they controlled every aspect of people’s lives.

      • My nan was 101 when she caught covid and is still kicking at 103. I know noone who suffered for more than a few days from it, yet I know plenty still suffering after affects from the vaccine and yes I realise that is purely anecdotal. The point I was trying to make is a government that will not allow dissent is not healthy. How can it be right to sell coal to china yet not use it ourselves. Seems wrong on every level to me, I see noone arguing against what I say but apparently I’m a dumb bogan and support some clown in America. I’d like to be proven wrong, but don’t think they can, hence the cheap insults

        • Funny how the suck ups of the world are happy to put with with a failed state if their are enough bread & circuses to distract them from being played like fools!

          Sounds like you are putty in the hands of an another American who used to used to be Australian but changed nationality just so he could line his already full pockets by ironically fooling the white trash of many nations into believing that minorities were the source of their problems in life rather than the billionare tax dodgers robbing them blind!

  17. Chris in Australia : I should just ignore Ray Cathode and Standhill ( who might just be the same person ) . They are habitual snipers

      • I can assure you we are not the same person. And if standing up against the bunker mentality of the conspiracy theorists is sniping, then I’m proud to be a sniper. And on reading before posting, no offence intended Ray.

        • None Taken Standhill!

          I’m more than happy to show up the drooling morons of the world by sniping at their brainwashed ramblings!

  18. Did you pair of Muppets forget where you are, or do you come here simply to sh*t up the site? You both claim to care about the environment yet want to see your fellow citizens punished for um, driving, yet don’t care how much coal my govt sells to the third world. Your critical thinking levels are as low as your testosterone. Get a grip on your emotions before you try and offend others, it’s not a good look

    • Looks like
      Strewth Moyt!

      Thanks for proving my previous points!

      This site normally works just fine without any big dumb idiots opening their big fat mouths, so try taking your out advice before spouting off like you’re on a Pathetic Meatheads R Us forum!

      Lay off the tinnies of kagaroo pee lager before posting as you sound like a real larrikin!

  19. And your points were? You like foreigners more than your own countrymen? Or were you trying to prove my point that you’re emotionally unhinged? Fair dinkum bloke your feeble attempts at name calling are limp wristed and you can’t even spell the word kangaroo. I suggest it’s you that would be better served remaining in your bbc safe spaces, surely noone would dare disagree with your incessant drivel there

    • The only people I don’t like in my own country are part of the unholy alliance of billionaire tax dodgers & their voting fodder who are too stupid to realise their are being taken for a ride! At least some are twigging as the bread & circuses are running thin!

      Thanks again for proving my points, if you want to know what the are just re-read your previous posts to see where you went wrong.

  20. Taken for a ride, you actually want them to ride on buses, they simply want to drive their cars, this is a website about cars, and you’re ok that only the rich will be able to afford to do so. You pretend to be an environmentalist but only want western govts to clean their act up. This article was asking for opinions, de gustibus non disputandum est, on the matter of tastes(or opinions) there is no dispute, your claiming moral high ground is somewhat comical. I’m not rereading your infantile rants nor will you address anything I say other than use left wing keywords in reply. I’m sure you’ve got nothing better to do, so you can argue with yourself from here on. Get a life pillick

    • Calm down there, if you can’t handle a contrary view then step out of the kitchen!

      London has a public transport system most cities can only dream about not to mention a road layout that mostly dates back to at least medieval times so driving is masochistic even without a congestion charge.

      The city where I work is smaller but it’s still much more convenient to take a train & walk then drive in due to the cost of parking alone, even without taking the petrol costs into account!

      Some creative applications of tariffs will sort our rest of the world, I’m surprised you didn’t think of this considering the Australian car industry only really existed for decades due to this kind of thing!

      Thanks for the laughs by pretending to be a font of knowledge when your postings are just the usual right wing lackey outpouring, so it’s you who should be getting a life!

      • It’s great my govt sells billions of tons of coal to the worlds largest polluter, and fine now my grandparents outside of London can’t afford to drive to collect their shopping or visit friends in hospital anymore. As I clearly stated above noones opinion can be right or wrong, but mine makes me right wing, stupid, and obviously not libertarian. I must be in the wrong place, my mistake I thought this site was about cars not authoritarian rule

        • Certainly you’re being played for a fool but don’t have the brain power to work out out. If you aren’t rich then you’re bound to be under the cost of authoritarian rule with a right wing government, if you can see past the bread & circuses along with other smokescreens.

          If you want to talk about your brands of politics join there are plenty of other places, otherwise stick to cars here!

          • Is that the best you can do? I’m not right wing in the slightest I simply don’t believe in overreaching or big government. I have no interest in left or right wing politics what are you on about? Btw our car industry collapsed because it was unsustainable due to the size of our population

          • Please practice what you preach Mr big brain, you keep bringing up politics, not I. I don’t think the policies this article is about are reasonable, ie unfair to the less well off in society. I drive roadtrains in Australia they hardly affect my day to day living

          • Thanks for showing how politically illiterate you are!

            You’re the one here who keeps bringing up politics, I’m just the one calling you for it!

          • Gotcha. My concerns about burning coal are political, not about the environment. One can only help the environment by not driving. End of conversation

  21. Bringing things a little more on topic, I don’t think London is as polluted as it was in the eighties, even with fewer vehicles on the roads, due to the end of leaded petrol and the declining popularity of diesel vehicles. Also nearly all trains in London are electric, which reduces pollution from diesel trains( if you’ve seen the clag from some old diesels together, you’ll know). I do agree witb the poster above: you have to be a masochist to drive in some parts of London, or very well off to afford the parking and congestion charges.

    • That’s true, though my cousin reckoned his eczema was worse after living in London for a while, luckily he moved back to Northamptonshire after a couple of years.

      Post pea soupers, I imagine it would have been quite foul in the mid 1980s with most cars running on leaded petrol, diesel engines still being agricultural, & not all trains being electrified.

      • London was the first city to implement smokeless zones after the 1956 Clean Air Act, which was the first move to improve the capital’s air quality, but pollution from motor vehicles became a big problem.You only have to drive along the North Circular, one of the most congested roads in the country, to see how traffic pollution has turned houses black.

  22. I’m against ULEZ zones which are just money making schemes. I’m also against wood burning fires which are polluting our air worse than vehicles. I suppose it is more difficult for Khan to camera these therefore no action taken.

  23. Another thing I despise: parking enforcement staff, particularly those employed by private parking companines. These miserable little jobsworths seem to delight in ticketing people for the slightest infraction of their petty rules, such as being a minute late in a deserted car park, or one that really took the biscuit, someone having their parking ticket sideways on. My local hospital trust employs people who would make Pol Pot look charming and are widely despised by staff and visitors.
    One thing, though, since these are private parking companies and not local government or the police, their fines are classed as an invoice rather than a penalty. Yes they send the most aggressive letters if you don’t pay up on time and threaten county court action to get their money, but in the majority of cases, won’t pursue the fine if the cost of recovering the money is too much. Not paying in the first place will put these bullies out of business.

  24. @ Pissed off motorist.

    Do you really think that your comment is acceptable or proportionate? You might disagree with the laws being enacted but I hope you agree that you have gone too far and that perhaps you could have expressed your anger more moderately.

    Your comment appears to breach the site’s acceptable use policy.


    • I’ve read POM’s comments and making comments about killing police officers is a step too far. Not paying ULEZ tolls and hating this policy is fine, as he’s not alone in this, but threats of violence to people isn’t. My comments about oarking enforcement and private parking fines aren’t an incitement to people not to pay to park, merely to not pay a fine which isn’t legally valid and which has been imposed for the flimsiest of reasons.

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