Labour hates drivers

Can Labour be trusted to help British motorists?
Can Labour be trusted to help British motorists? - Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP

No tax rises. A clampdown on immigration. And massive increases in spending on the health service. We all take the pledges made during an election campaign with a generous pinch of salt, and voters have long since given up on expecting every promise will be fulfilled.

But hold on. With a vow today to be on “the side of drivers,” the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is surely taking this game of deception to a whole new level. Coming from a party where local mayors and devolved administrations have attempted to turn sitting behind a steering wheel into an almost criminal activity, the chutzpah is breathtaking. The truth is that Labour hates cars, and the people who drive them – and it would be better for us all if they simply admitted that.

With his party 20 points (or more) ahead in the polls, and with the Right split between the Conservatives and Reform, you might imagine that Labour could take a break from campaigning. Someone somewhere, however, clearly decided that the UK’s 33 million motorists were too important an audience to be ignored.

“We will back drivers and fix our roads for everyone who uses them,” announced Sir Keir on social media, while the party quickly followed on with what it said was a “fully-costed plan” to tackle potholes and the soaring cost of car insurance.

It’s not a bad idea in itself. After all, the cost of driving in the UK has soared over the last few years, with insurance rates spiralling upwards, and taxes increased. According to The Car Expert, the average cost of running a family car has risen by 34p per cent since 2018, far more than average wages.

Meanwhile, simply driving from one place to another now involves navigating a complex and often bewildering range of congestion charges. Outside of a few big cities public transport is unreliable, expensive, or simply non-existent. That means for millions of Britons a car is the only practical way to get around, making the soaring cost of owning one a serious issue that deserves serious debate.

That’s precisely why we should be sceptical of Keir Starmer’s claims. His party has made life harder for motorists in so many different ways it is hard to keep track of all of them.

In Wales, the Labour-controlled devolved administration imposed a default 20 miles-per-hour speed limit, slowing down traffic to a crawl. In London, the Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan arrogantly brushed aside protests from commuters to impose expensive emissions charges across the entire capital, and once investigated the possibility of introducing the UK’s first road-charging scheme.

Local councils from Bristol to Manchester have competed with each other to introduce tougher clean-air zones, cycle lanes and parking charges that, while arguably justifiable in themselves, have made driving harder and harder.

A Labour-controlled Westminster will have even more scope to penalise motorists. The party will push for electric alternatives to petrol cars, even as EVs remain punishingly expensive even without the looming threat of tariffs on Chinese imports. The plan to fix potholes will require an expensive road rebuilding program, but it is the extra weight of electric cars that helps create them in the first place. Banning exploration of new oil and gas sites won’t make fuel any cheaper, either.

Starmer can insist he and his party are on the side of drivers all he likes, but he’s only making himself look ridiculous. Anyone can see that his government will only double down on precisely the same flawed policies that made the lives of British motorists so difficult in the first place.