The Conservative candidate hoping to succeed Boris Johnson as MP for the now disgraced former Prime Minister’s West London seat claims the by-election “isn’t about Boris”, who he says he only had a “working relationship” with before Mr Johnson dramatically quit. South Ruislip Conservative councillor Steve Tuckwell added he believes the upcoming by-election, which will take place on July 20, will instead be determined by those who are “overwhelmingly” against Sadiq Khan’s planned “highway robbery” extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
Sitting next to a pond outside the front of Uxbridge’s Conservative club, Cllr Tuckwell said City Hall is “forcing” the expanded ULEZ, which will see those driving non-compliant vehicles in the area charged a £12.50 daily fee, on the constituency. The second prong of his attack was a claim that Sadiq Khan is “also trying to close our police station” on Harefield Road.
Asked if he accepted that Mr Johnson deliberately misled Parliament, Cllr Tuckwell swiftly swerved the subject. He said: “It’s a great question. But I’m here as the selected candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip last Thursday. My absolute focus is to get elected. In doing so I’m knocking on hundreds and hundreds of doors across the constituency.
READ MORE: Man who could replace Boris Johnson as MP says Uxbridge and Ruislip need more London Underground and bus services
“The doors that I’ve knocked on so far, and it is several hundred, nobody’s talking about Boris. No one’s asking me about Boris. They’re asking about what I can do as their elected MP. And this election isn’t about Boris Johnson. This election is about what I can do for his constituency.”
He moved the conversation on to ULEZ, which Cllr Tuckwell claimed even Labour supporters he has spoken to on the campaign trail are vehemently against. He said: “I can tell you now that I’ve been serving as an elected representative for just over five years now, and I have never seen such a single issue to be raised on the doorsteps. Staunch Labour supporters are absolutely against the expansion.
“And that goes without saying across all of the doors that we’ve not done, all of the emails I received, and all of the phone calls that we’re making right across this constituency. Stopping the ULEZ expansion into Uxbridge and South Ruislip is the number one priority that the residents of this constituency want me to serve them for.”
On the area’s police station, he added: “My campaign is focused on ensuring that the station is fully operational for the allocation of the 20,000 police officers that will be coming to this constituency can work from and operate from, but also that members of the public have got somewhere to go to talk to serving police officers, raise queries and get comprehensive advice, or just talk to a police officer.”
His Labour opponent, Councillor Danny Beales, told Mylondon last week that he thinks he is “in with a really good shot” of winning. Asked if he thought the same, Cllt Tuckwell said: “I’m working incredibly hard, and I’m not taking any vote for granted. But my focus is as someone who is born and raised in his community, I want to be serving the people that I live with, my neighbours, people who I’ve worked with and socialised with, to the best of my ability.
“They also want me to focus on ensuring that the money that’s been allocated for the regeneration and rebuilding of Hillingdon Hospital is delivered as quickly as possible, so that the people in this constituency have a state of the art facility.”
During MyLondon’s interview with Cllr Beales, a woman stopped him to tell the aspiring MP that he had her vote “because we need a change”. This is a sentiment that Labour will hope is adopted by many more voters.
As the Conservatives had been in power for 13 years, representing Uxbridge and South Ruislip since the seat’s creation in 2010, Cllr Tuckwell was asked if he was worried about residents wanting to try out a new party. He said: “The mood I’m getting on the doorstep, and I can only speak from myself, and the hundreds of volunteers that I’ve got in my team supporting me at the moment, are getting is that they want someone who’s genuinely local, who was born in Hillingdon hospital, who was educated in this constituency, worked, socialised and raised a family in this community.
“The mood that people are telling me is they want someone who can champion their cause, and the thing they are asking me to do is to stop Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ.
“Let’s put this into context. Hillingdon has got Outer London geography. It’s not an inner London borough such as Camden. It doesn’t have the transport links the Inner London boroughs such as Camden have. So we need to ensure that those people that are reliant on cars, and people are allowed in cars up and down the constituency.
“The ULEZ is going to devastate them. It’s going to devastate business, it’s going to cost them £4,500 a year just to drive their cars around the constituency. I’ve been speaking to businesses, I’ve been speaking to residents, people that rely on cars to visit elderly relatives.
“That’s all been put in jeopardy as a result of this crazy expansion. And that is the number one topic which is coming up on the doorstep that I’m completely focused on delivering when I’m elected on the 20th of July.”
Asked how he plans to stop the Mayor’s plans, Cllr Tuckwell added: “I’m a serving councillor in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Hillingdon has led the coalition of councils in taking legal action against the expansion of the ULEZ. We’re waiting to see what the outcome of that court case [will be].
“But I’m not focused on the outcome. I’m focused on ensuring that I’m listening to the voices of the residents, and that’s what they’re telling me loud and clear on the doorsteps.”
Asked if he would join Cllr Beales in advocating for more London Underground and bus transport links in the area, Cllr Tuckwell said: “That’s a great question, and the example I’ll give you there is that the Hillington Conservative group put forward a motion during the recent council meeting, where they wanted to compel Transport for London (TfL) to put in an express bus service from the north to the south to the borough, so people in the north of the constituency can enjoy the benefits of the Elizabeth line.
“The local Labour group completely disagreed with that, and to a man unanimously voted against that motion to compel TfL to put in an express bus route for the residents Uxbridge and South Ruislip.”
When asked one final time for his views on Boris Johns’s resignation, and whether he would have voted for or against the select committee’s report into the conduct of the former Conservative leader’s conduct, Cllr Tuckwell remained reticent. He said: “Again, I didn’t have the opportunity to vote yesterday.
“I’m not serving MP, my focus is completely on when the new selection and the priorities are talking. On how he found Mr Johnson, Cllr Tuckwell said: “Well, we shared constituents. As I say, I’m a serving councillor in South Ruislip. So we shared constituents.
“We have many common objectives, you know, I’m going to come back to ULEZ, us opposing. There’s keeping the police station open, and also, you know, Boris was instrumental in supporting the funding for the new hospital. So, we had a working relationship.
“But this election isn’t about Boris. This is about me winning selection for the Conservative Party. Because a vote for Labour in this by-election is a vote for the ULEZ. It gives Sadiq Khan the green light to say, ‘Yep, Hillingdon are for the ULEZ scheme’, and we know that the residents of Uxbridge and South Ruislip are not.”
A London Labour source said: “Why have the Tories got it in for London? People affected deserve a better scrappage scheme like in Birmingham, which the government helped to fund to the tune of £30 million. The government haven’t played fair. They need to give Londoners what they’ve given to other places for similar schemes.”
A source close to Sadiq Khan said: “Tory cuts and chronic underfunding has forced the Met to make savings of nearly £1bn since 2010, including the closure of police stations across London. The Met are now considering options for the future of Uxbridge police station, ensuring police officers are based where local people need them most.
“It is astonishing that the Tory candidate is criticising the current Mayor, when the former Tory MP for Uxbridge, Boris Johnson, closed more than 70 police stations and front counters in London between 2008-2016 when he was in City Hall.
“Thanks to extra investment from the current Mayor Sadiq Khan there are more police officers on the streets than at any other time in London’s history – taking the total to more than 35,000.”
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