LABOUR’S failure to take Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in Thursday night’s by-election is being blamed by some on the 800-odd people who voted Green rather than the party that recently ditched most of its environmental policies – and simultaneously on one environmental policy they haven’t ditched yet.

Never mind that the policy to expand London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) was driven [sic] by Grant “Starmer should pay for climate activists” Shapps.

Or that, despite its name, it is so weak that it barely affects any cars (presumably enough to swing the result mind you).

And certainly never mind that had the election been run under a less unfair voting system than first-past-the-post (supported by both Labour and the Tories) then vote transfers might well have taken Labour over the line.

No, what I fear we’ll see now is both the Tories and Labour screaming against yet another environmental policy during what is likely to be the hottest year the planet has endured since humans invented the bow and arrow.

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There is a good point under this. When advancing transformative policies, one must take the public with us or they’ll vote for folk promising the opposite regardless of the effect it will have on those same voters.

But the failure to bring voters along at this degree of climate emergency should be alarmingly worrying. The Ulez is just about the most low-hanging fruit of transport policies. My eight-year-old petrol car qualifies for entry into it (and into the similarly lax LEZ in Glasgow) and so do vehicles that are much older and more polluting. Anyone buying a new car that would be excluded would have to buy one that is intentionally designed to breach those standards.

The transformation of any behaviour is best driven by both the promise of a better future and the pain of not taking up the offer of that better future.

If the goal is to reduce car traffic in polluted cities then it must simultaneously be made harder to drive into the cities and easier to do something else – be that to take public transport or to not have to go to the city at all because you can work from home and they haven’t shut down all of your community spaces and local services.

Ironically, from a Scottish point of view, some of those alternatives are already in place in Uxbridge given that public transport spending in London and the south-east so vastly outstrips public transport investment outwith London that neither group can even imagine what it’s like to live in the other.

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The journey by car from the centre of town to, say, Westminster is only a couple of minutes faster than by taking the bus or train.

By contrast, it takes me more than twice as long to travel from where I am to the centre of Glasgow by public transport than it does by car and trying to even get to the train station by bike means navigating an extremely dangerous, unlit trunk road with no cycle path.

We used to have a train station in the village but it was closed by Beeching and the council recently approved demolishing the line to build houses that won’t meet the passive energy standards due to come in next year.

As I say, Ulez is a fairly low-hanging fruit among climate policies and if it is backtracked on or delayed then the result will be even more extreme policies in future to catch up.

The lesson for politicians – including those north of the Border eyeing up elections here – is that climate politics cannot wait but it also cannot be pinned on a single part of the puzzle.

We need politicians who can give us the promise in a way that means we need never feel the pain, who can fight effectively against climate deniers (and the 15-minute community conspiracies I shall await in the comments) and their enablers, and can show us that climate policies are not about the sacrifice of everything good in the world but about the creation of something better.

By the time my car is banned from the city, I shouldn’t own one, shouldn’t need one and shouldn’t want one.