Sadiq Khan claims Ulez has been 'weaponised by conspiracy theorists'

Sadiq Khan claims Ulez outrage has been ‘weaponised by the same conspiracy theorists’ who believe Covid isn’t real – days before his hated £12.50-a-day green tax rolls out across London

  • London mayor hits out at ‘conspiracy theorists’ for campaigning against scheme
  • Khan doubles down on claim that ‘Covid deniers’ are perpetuating Ulez hate
  • READ MORE: Nine out of 10 Ulez cameras vandalised in southeast London 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan claims that the outrage against ultra low emission zones (Ulez) in the capital has been stoked up by conspiracy theorists who believe that Covid doesn’t exist.

Mr Khan has hit out at those who associate the expansion of the Ulez with conspiracy theories, some of which are allegedly anti-Semitic in nature or thought to be promoted by far-right groups.

Earlier this year, he said that some of those who opposed the scheme’s growth across all London boroughs were ‘anti-vaxxers, by Covid deniers, conspiracy theorists and Nazis.’

His claim that some of those opposed to the plan were associated with extreme political movements has prompted outrage from locals who say they are ‘normal people…not the far-right’.

But Mr Khan doubled down on his claims that Ulez opposition had become the domain of tinfoil hat-wearers on an LBC call-in show on Thursday.

Sadiq Khan doubled down on claims that Ulez opposition has been ‘weaponised’ by conspiracy theorists who claimed that Covid doesn’t exist

Mr Khan said he would listen to ‘genuine concerns’ shared by Londoners on the expansion of Ulez, but said he ‘didn’t expect this to be weaponised by those who…didn’t believe Covid was real, believed in conspiracy theories and so forth’

Conspiracy theorists have previously made unsubstantiated links between Mr Khan and Nazis

Anti-Ulez campaigners have resented being labelled ‘far right’ and say they are ‘normal people’

Asked if he was surprised at how ‘ugly’ opposition had been, Mr Khan told the station’s James O’Brien: ‘Yeah, listen, I didn’t expect for there to be people linking my policies to clean up the air with conspiracy theories.

‘I did expect people to have genuine concerns and I’ve been listening to those genuine concerns.

‘I didn’t expect this to be weaponised by those who you and I have exchanged with who didn’t believe Covid was real, believed in conspiracy theories and so forth.

READ MORE: Londoners snap up classic cars to dodge ULEZ: Dealers see surge in interest for older models as capital braces 

‘The challenge I have is to listen to, and I will always listen to, Londoners.

‘I’ll always try and address genuine concerns Londoners have.

‘But I have been surprised by how they’ve been latched onto by others.’

However, his comments were blasted on social media by those who say they will lose out as the scheme expands.

One said: ‘Stop spreading the misinformation and stop smearing about the people of London that…are concerned about ULEZ.’

Another wrote: ‘Say it for what it is. A tax. The quality of air doesn’t matter once you’ve paid the £12 and weirdly that polluted air just stays in London. 

‘He’s absolutely killed his chances of ever being elected again.’

During the call-in on Thursday morning, Mr Khan clashed with those living and working in London who will see themselves among the thousands set to pay £12.50 a day to go about their daily lives.

One local window cleaner, Lance, lives outside greater London in Abbots Langley but drives 50 metres (164ft) into the new Ulez area to clean a block of flats, for which he will pay the charge.

Because he lives in Hertfordshire, he doesn’t qualify for the £7,000 scrappage bonus available to London-based van drivers to get a newer van that would dodge the charge – and asked if the Mayor thought that was ‘fair’.

Mr Khan said: ‘Unfortunately I can’t use London taxpayers’ money to support people outside of our great city including you.

‘I hope you’ll appreciate why I’ve got to focus the limited resources I have – City Hall resources – to Londoners.’

A Ulez camera in place in Greater London ahead of the rollout. Every London borough will fall under Ulez from August 29

A Ulez camera labelled a ‘spy camera’ in south-west London. Anti-Ulez campaigners have been taking matters into their own hands ahead of the expansion next week

Campaigners have been covering camera lenses with stickers in a bid to stop their cars from being fined

So-called ‘blade runners’ have been cutting the cables on Ulez cameras ahead of the Greater London rollout. The Met Police issued this photo of a man they want to speak to last week

Radio host Mr O’Brien then took Khan to task on research suggesting Ulez would not be as effective at tackling air quality as the Mayor’s office has been suggesting.

Emails surfaced earlier this week between London’ deputy for environment and energy Shirley Rodrigues and Imperial College London (ICL) on research showing the existing zone had reduced harmful nitrogen dioxide levels by less than three per cent.

ICL Professor Frank Kelly is said to have offered to write a statement that would say Ulez had helped to ‘dramatically reduce air pollution’, despite the research suggesting otherwise.

The Ulez expansion launches on Tuesday August 29, and will see thousands of people driving older, more polluting cars charged £12.50 a day to drive into the capital.

Greater London Authority planners insist that nine in 10 cars and eight in 10 vans already meet the Ulez standards – covering all petrol vehicles from 2006 and diesel vehicles from 2016.

Local resistance to the plans has seen some Ulez cameras vandalised, as thousands of new units are installed in outer boroughs of the capital.

Gangs of so-called ‘blade runners’ have been cutting cables on newly installed cameras, or covering the lenses with stickers that read ‘FCUK KHAN’. 

Banners wielded by anti-Ulez campaigners have branded him a ‘dictator’ and a ‘liar’ over his suggestion that the scheme will cut air pollution and save lives.

Earlier this year, a gang of apparent conspiracy theorists outside a People’s Question Time session in Ealing sparked outrage after appearing to suggest Mr Khan was associating with Nazis.

One placard depicted Khan with his hand outstretched, beneath a logo with a swastika at its centre, and claimed he was ‘saving the planet by taxation’.

The poster also carried references to conspiracy theories about the United Nations and the annual World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland.

Labour MP David Lammy called the placards ‘disgusting’ while Emily Thornberry tweeted that ‘the far-right’ was responsible for the demonstration.

During the meeting, Mr Khan told opponents to Ulez that they were unwillingly aligning themselves with extreme movements on the fringes of society.

He said: ‘Some of you have got good reasons to oppose Ulez but you are in coalition with Covid deniers… you may not like it… you are in coalition with the far-right. And you are in coalition with vaccine deniers as well.’

But his popularity has dwindled in recent weeks as Greater London boroughs brace themselves for the roll-out of Ulez next week.

A YouGov poll earlier this week found he is viewed unfavourably by 52 per cent of Londoners and favourably by 40 per cent — giving a net favourability of minus 12.

That figure plunges to minus 24 in the furthest reaches of Greater London.

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