New Uxbridge MP Wants To Be The “Voice Of The People” And Stop ULEZ
The Conservatives won the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election with a small majority of 495 (Alamy)
Steve Tuckwell, the newly elected MP for Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, has said he wants to be the “voice of the people” and continue to push back against the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) scheme into outer London.
Tuckwell, a local councillor and former Royal Mail manager, beat Labour’s Danny Beales in a close victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election in July after the former prime minister quit as an MP.
Many polls predicted Labour would win the seat, but the tightly-fought contest was complicated by significant local opposition to the Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan's plan to expand a daily charge on non-compliant vehicles to more suburban parts of the capital. The scheme was originally implemented in inner London by Johnson when he was mayor.
The expansion is set to go ahead on Tuesday, meaning that from then on, anyone driving in the expanded area in a vehicle that does not meet emissions standards will face a daily charge of £12.50. Khan argues that nine out of ten vehicles currently on the road would be compliant.
By focusing on a local issue, the Conservatives managed to hold onto the seat – and a month later, Tuckwell told PoliticsHome he would continue to fight against it.
“The by-election that I won was turned into a referendum on ULEZ, not by me, not by my campaign, but by the messages that were coming from the doorsteps,” he said.
“The court has decided that legally speaking it is ok, but the court of public opinion is that [Khan] doesn't have the mandate to do it, and the next step is to continue making sure that this message continues to be front and centre.”
The government had planned to use a little-known legal clause to block the expansion, but the challenge has now been scrapped after lawyers warned it would fail.
As a backbench MP, Tuckwell himself does not have the power to change the policy, but insisted the by-election was about “sending a message as strong as possible”.
“I will hand the baton onto the mayoral election,” he said.
“The fight is going to continue. What needs to come back [to Westminster] is that Sadiq Khan has to be held accountable and it's for the people of London to choose.”
The Conservative candidate for the London mayoral election in 2024, Susan Hall, said if she wins she will “stop this straight away” and that putting a blanket charge on drivers is “nothing short of a disgrace”.
As the successor MP to Boris Johnson, Tuckwell has big shoes to fill but said he was “not daunted” by the prospect of replacing a former prime minister in the constituency.
“It hasn't really sunk in yet if truth be known,” he admitted to PoliticsHome on only his second visit to Westminster since being elected (where he does not yet have his own office or desk).
“I think I can bring a very different approach to being the local MP and in a lot of ways build on what Boris achieved,” Tuckwell continued.
“He was significant in achieving the funding for the hospital, it's now up to me to make sure that funding is delivered, and we get a high quality state of the art facility for our residents.
“[Johnson] was active as a local MP, but I'm going to have an opportunity without the distractions of higher office to raise [the constituency’s] profile. I’ll just be making sure that I'm as local as I can possibly be, as accessible as I can possibly be and taking the philosophy of what is a very well run council into here in Westminster.”
He recounted how he met a woman crossing the road who he said told him: “It's just so nice to see our local MP just walking into work.”
Would he ever want to become prime minister himself? “I can't see that happening, but never say never,” Tuckwell said.
“But my focus and one of the things I've campaigned on is to serve the residents. I'm not a professional politician, I don't consider myself as a politician who's got aspirations for reaching high offices of state or working in senior roles in government.
“Genuinely, I did this because I want to be the voice of the people of Uxbridge and Ruislip and I know that I can do that.”
Despite having only just won his seat, Tuckwell must already set his sights on the looming general election which is expected to be held next year.
“I've started campaigning already,” the Uxbridge MP said, adding that he has been having conversations with Tory MPs and candidates about how they can replicate his campaign’s success.
“My by-election victory was unexpected and what we can now do is inject some confidence into the party,” he explained.
“We had a difficult 18 months. One of the things you can take away from the by-elections is when we're campaigning on matters of substance the electorate turns to the Conservatives, because when Labour are running anything it’s a disaster. So we can reconstruct and build on that.”
Tuckwell intends to stay on as a local councillor while also working as an MP, as he doesn’t want to “force” a council by-election on the area so soon after the parliamentary by-election. He did, however, say he will likely step back from some of his council responsibilities.
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