A year of green gaslighting

2023 proved that the war on cars is no conspiracy theory.

Lauren Smith

Topics Politics Science & Tech UK

It is hardly a state secret that our eco-obsessed elites want us to consume less, travel less and emit less carbon. At the centre of this miserable project has been the drive to tear people away from their cars.

Over the past few years, greens in government have launched all manner of anti-motorist schemes. There have been Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), so-called 15-minute cities and congestion charges like London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Yet whenever anyone pushes back against these schemes, our green elites claim that none of it is really happening.

To use a much-abused phrase, we are being gaslit. Rather than responding to genuine concerns from local residents who need their cars to get by, green politicians and activists claim that there is no war on cars and that we are the crazy ones for being upset. Any and all opposition to these top-down anti-car schemes has been brushed aside as hysterical, conspiratorial nonsense.

Over the past year, this gaslighting has really come to a head. Take the discussion around Oxford’s controversial traffic-reduction plans. Back in February, residents took to the city’s streets to demonstrate against this infringement on their freedoms. In response, greens summarily denounced the protesters as far-right nutcases. Slate magazine in the US mocked the Oxford protesters for falling for a ‘global right-wing conspiracy theory’. One commentator even claimed that these protesters were on ‘the road to fascism’. Countless articles and reports were written to ‘debunk’ the supposed conspiracy theory that Oxford was waging a war on local motorists.

But this war on motorists is not a conspiracy theory. Oxfordshire County Council really is planning to reduce where, when and how often you can drive your car in Oxford, through a series of traffic filters and a paid-permit scheme. Local authorities even admit that they are ‘targeting unnecessary journeys by car’ and they want to make ‘walking, cycling, public and shared transport the natural first choice’. It’s not a far-right fantasy – the council really is trying to stop people from driving.

This war on motorists is nationwide. In September, Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford introduced a new default 20mph speed limit in built-up, residential areas in Wales. This means that the vast majority of roads in urban areas have had their speed limits reduced from 30mph to 20mph. Many motorists have opposed the move, complaining that it is clogging up roads and adding unnecessary time to their journeys. Even UK prime minister Rishi Sunak pointed to the blanket 20mph restrictions as part of a ‘war on motorists’.

Drakeford responded to this criticism by accusing Sunak of ‘misleading people’. He dismissed concerns that his plans would make life more difficult for Welsh drivers. He insisted that the change was not as drastic as it had been made out to be, that ‘speed limits on a large number of Welsh roads are unchanged’ and that journeys would only take ‘up to a minute longer’. All of Drakeford’s claims were dubious at best.

Perhaps the most controversial of all the anti-car measures has been London mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of the ULEZ scheme to cover all of Greater London. Since August this year, any Londoner who takes an older, environmentally unfriendly car off the driveway will have to pay a daily £12.50 charge. According to Khan, those who complain about this are ‘far right’, on the side of asthma and lung disease and ‘dismissing the science’.

This last accusation is particularly ironic, given that Khan’s staff have been caught manipulating the science to try to justify the scheme. Shortly before the ULEZ expansion, the Telegraph revealed that City Hall had been pressuring scientists and researchers into toeing the pro-ULEZ line. London officials wanted academic studies contradicting or downplaying Khan’s claims about ULEZ to be reworded or not be published at all. So while Khan was busy accusing ULEZ’s opponents of science denial, his team was busy manipulating the science. You would struggle to find a better example of the green elite’s gaslighting of the public.

Despite environmentalists’ claims to the contrary, the war on cars is not a ‘niche concern’, a ‘myth’ or a ‘conspiracy theory’. It is not ‘far right’ to want to be able to drive somewhere easily in your own vehicle. The green movement is lying to us. Next year, let’s make sure we take them to task for their ridiculous untruths.

Lauren Smith is an editorial assistant at spiked.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics Science & Tech UK


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