Only the Labour Party could turn a night in which they overturned a 20,000 majority Tory seat in Yorkshire into an almighty row over a tax on fewer than 10 per cent of outer London’s cars.
The Conservatives’ narrow victory in Uxbridge, which had at least something (but by no means all) to do with opposition to ULEZ, has done just that. Keir Starmer, who has yet to win any major election, has spent the weekend gently telling the Mayor of London, who has won two, to rethink the policy.
Sadiq Khan has said he’ll tweak around the edges, but the principle will remain. Khan even retweeted the Pope’s call yesterday for leaders to take bold measures to protect the climate.
For all that Starmer and his chancellor Rachel Reeves have become ever presents in the Square Mile, the party’s inability to look professional remains a black mark against it for the business community.
That a landmark Labour policy in London, previously lauded by the party, could be trashed on the back of a multifaceted by-election result does not suggest that the rest of Keir Starmer’s policy platform can be trusted. Such amateurism occurs in other areas.
The party’s plan last week to restrict child benefit to the first two children managed to split the party in two on the week that a grown-up political outfit would have been turning its fire exclusively on the opposition. When challenged on major policies, the party’s front bench vacillates.
When asked for specifics, they offer platitudes. What reason is there to believe that the pledge to find a balance between private and public sector will not be ditched the moment something turns against Keir, and the hard-left Rayner wing of the party find an opportunity?
There is deep frustration with the instability of the various forms of Tory government over recent years in the City but it is still striking how little enthusiasm, political opportunism aside, there is for Labour. Rishi Sunak, with his Silicon Valley instincts, will surely sense an opportunity.
Travellers embarking on the big summer getaway will keep Eurostar’s trains full this weekend, but the company has warned that it is still running below pre-Covid capacity and may struggle to service its debts.
Eurostar returned to profit last year after traveller numbers plummeted during the pandemic, but its latest accounts revealed that auditors had found a “material uncertainty” over its ability to continue as a going concern.
The company warned that if revenues fell because of strikes or passengers cutting back on their spending, it may breach covenants on some of its borrowings, according to accounts filed at Companies House.
It had previously relied on the help of shareholders, which include the French government, but said “support from shareholders in the event of a breach … is not guaranteed”.
Eurostar, which operates trains from London St Pancras to Paris and Brussels, has been hit by Brexit-related bottlenecks at passport control that have constrained its capacity. It blamed a shortage of border police and the requirement for all British passports to be stamped on entry to the EU.