Desperate Tories, shameless lies

A black-and-white picture of Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, a middle-aged clean-shaven Asian man. In this picture he has a noticeably dour expression.
Sadiq Khan

Today the Tories published on their Twitter/X account a video claiming that Sadiq Khan’s London was the model for how the country would be governed if Labour were to win the forthcoming general election, and it is the most bizarre apocalyptic video I’ve ever seen from a mainstream political party. The video is in black and white and features a voice with a faint American accent telling us that London’s “ancient streets bear witness to a different tale, not of kings and queens but of crime and desperation” as a result of being governed by the Labour party. This itself is a dubious claim; the Tories have been in power for 14 years and the police have seen cuts during that time as has the rest of the public sector. But the video contains two outright lies, one of them libellous.

This is the first:

In the depths of these narrow passageways tread squads of ULEZ enforcers, dressed in black, faces covered with masks, terrorising communities at the beck and call of their Labour mayor.

ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone and means that people who drive older cars that emit higher levels of pollution have to pay a charge to drive them in London. People living in London who own them have had to sell or alternatively accept a scrappage fee from the mayor’s office. This may seem harsh, but it’s about protecting people’s health; pollution from cars damages people’s lungs, and sometimes kills. ULEZ enforcement is mostly done through roadside cameras and sometimes with detector vans with the same cameras used in mobile speed cameras, the same as with the congestion charge and previous versions of the Low Emission Zone. The only people running round with masks are the people sabotaging ULEZ cameras and anything else perceived to be ULEZ infrastructure, including in some cases traffic lights. ULEZ was bipartisan until the Tories realised it was unpopular in outer London when it contributed to them winning the Uxbridge by-election unexpectedly; in fact, the government insisted that Khan expand the scheme to cover all of London as a way of paying back debts Transport for London ran up during the pandemic.

The video then claims that the streets of London are empty as a result of “a tax on driving implemented by their Labour mayor master”, which “forces people to stay inside or go underground”. Perhaps they mean to take the Underground, which is a rail system which serves much of central and north London. Nobody is forced to stay inside anymore; they weren’t even during the height of the coronavirus lockdowns when we were still allowed out to exercise and shop.

It continues:

Gripped by the tendrils of rising crime, London’s citizens stay inside. The streets are quiet; quieter at night now than they used to be. A 54% increase in knife crime since the Labour mayor seized power has the metropolis teetering on the edge of chaos.

The original version of this video included scenes shot in a New York subway station; that scene has been replaced in the version currently available. This doesn’t change the main issue with the claim, however.

The claim that the mayor seized power is simply a flat out lie, and indeed is libellous. The mayor won a free and fair election carried out under a Conservative government. Their candidate Zac Goldsmith might have stood a chance, but the party hired Lynton Crosby to run a divisive, racist campaign, accusing him of being friends with terrorists and of being a threat to Hindus’ jewellery collections and an enemy of India’s fascist PM Narendra Modi. Anyone who lives in London can confirm that people aren’t staying at home; they are going about their business and getting out and having fun, as much as they can given the cost of living crisis made much worse by Brexit. Maybe it’s true that the streets are quieter than they were before the pandemic, but pandemics do that; they change people’s habits, at least for a time.

The video then claims that Sadiq Khan favours decriminalising drug use, which may or may not be true, but Sadiq Khan also is not Labour leader or even an MP anymore. He alleges that when Labour is in power “crime goes up, justice goes down” and that in London “the scales of justice remain tipped in favour of the darkness, leaving them to navigate the shadows alone”. This has nothing to do with Khan but with the Tories’ cuts which have run down the court system, underpaid the legal profession until they went on strike, and caused delays of years to criminal trials; in some cases defendants jailed on remand have had to be released, because the lengthy imprisonment was deemed inappropriate for someone who had not been convicted.

Politicians telling lies is nothing new; usually the lies consist of stretching the truth somewhat, or making a possibility out to be a fact, or using words in an ideological way as if that were fact rather than opinion. This is a straightforward personal accusation and Sadiq Khan is quite entitled now to sue the party for libel. One wonders if the Tories have just lost the plot, or were motivated by desperation or arrogance to put out a video so riddled with brazen untruths.

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