Extending ULEZ is making criminals out of the leftie middle-class
I’m as middle-class and suburban as it gets in London, but locals are planning a rebellion against ULEZ, writes Andy Blackmore.
I only nipped in for cod and chips, but now my ears are getting a battering. And I don’t know about you, but, whenever I consider hotbeds of sedition and anarchy, I picture Pancho Villa and dusty encampments in Mexican deserts; Che Guevara’s sweaty jungle camp in Bolivia or Rick’s revolting bedroom in the “The Young Ones”. Iconic images of revolutionaries in cool uniforms or yellow dungarees. I imagine impassioned debates, bickering over the semantics of communism or revolutionary poetry. OK, Rick aside, it’s perhaps an overly romantic vision. However, never, and I mean never; even in the most Gorgonzola-fueled cheese dream, does a suburban fish-and-chip shop take top billing.
The “chippy” to which I’m referring is situated slap-bang in the little slice of South London that is heaven to me, Crystal Palace. As middle-class, as middle-class suburbia gets. I freely admit to being part of that bourgeoisie (it’s not my fault I was born in the ’60s) – after passing my very own patented litmus test. Question: do you have more than three types of vinegar in the pantry? If the answer is yes; then yes, you are. Mind you; if you indeed have a pantry, you probably needn’t proceed to the second part of the procedure.
Talk in the takeaway has been relatively one-sided until now: the owner getting increasingly agitated over the pricing dynamics of his spuds – Maris Piper’s have risen in cost by 101 per cent this week alone. As more people in the chip-shop chip in about food inflation, and inflation, in general, the mood gets angrier, and somehow the topic turns to low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTN) and the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) extension. Forget cooking with gas; if somehow we could harness the power now heating the room there’d be free energy for months.
Before you even think it, yes, the term “Gammons” has crossed my mind and yes we customers are flushed pink in indignation, but before you go pigeonholing us all as right-wing Brexiteer types, not everyone who gets upset by the ULEZ extension is a central-casting stereotype. I’m a lefty and proud of it, even so, I’m livid that we have to get rid of the car that we’ve cherished for over twenty-five years. Yes, the same one for a quarter of a century – how green is that? Stick that in an environmentally friendly pipe and don’t smoke it. Neither can we afford to replace our non-ULEZ-compliant vehicle, nor, given that you can’t put a price on memories, do we want to either. However, we don’t have a choice.
The same can’t be said for many of the locals I’ve eavesdropped on who have made their feelings quite apparent. As I’ve listened to them, it feels like a dam is close to being breached, and consequently, I feel like the boy at the dyke, soaked as a middle-class borough vents its spleen. This really feels like a tipping point. That the people have been pushed (almost) too far. Never before has it felt like a political class is so out of touch with the mood on the streets. Honestly, I never thought I would ever hear “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” openly considering breaking the law.
So far, I’ve overheard people whisper in not-so-hushed tones about considering cloning, considering smashing or covering cameras. They’re probably empty threats, just brash bravado, but whether they are, or not, is not the point. The fact that they are whispering it, here in the “burbs” speaks volumes. I’m convinced that the occupants of Downing Street have no idea of the level of anger, no idea that such vigilantes are regarded as heroic bandits, here, on the not-so-mean streets of middle England.
Now, for any government to have taken its fingers so far off the pulse of the nation is not only a little careless but quite alarming. Why worry? Well, this is the thin end of the wedge. Remember, nothing can be more dangerous for democracy, than the point at which citizens feel compelled to disregard or take the law into their own hands.