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“We urgently need to know where Labour, the Conservatives, Lib Dems and others stand on motoring matters”

With the general election fast approaching, Mike Rutherford thinks the 40 million driving-licence holders of Britain have the power in their hands

Opinion - vote

It’s make your mind up time! And the decisions you’ll make could be the difference between you having a day-to-day life as a car user with a 24/7 personal mobility machine parked outside your home, and losing the privilege. The stakes genuinely are that high.

This time last week in Auto Express I said – prematurely, according to some – that the 2024 General Election campaign had already started. And on the very same soggy day, it did – with 4 July officially confirmed as the time to vote. Potentially it’ll be a life-changing moment for motorists and their passengers, who must choose the party they want running their roads, managing their motoring taxes, and revealing dates for the ban (or maybe not) of new petrol and diesel-powered cars.

It’s our ruling politicians who’ve so far been at the front of the queue when it comes to bringing/forcing EVs onto a market where supply still far exceeds demand. The 2030 ban on the sale of brand-new combustion-engined cars was put back to 2035 and may need to be relaxed further. And on a related point, major infrastructure improvements that are essential if pure electric cars are to become viable are too damn slow, costly and disruptive.

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We urgently need to know exactly where Labour, the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Greens, Reform, SNP and others stand on these and similar matters.

True, they can’t address every motoring issue at present, but they can state their priorities. Autonomous cars aren’t a priority, but the increasingly iffy parking and insurance industries are – and surely need reigning in. So within their imminent manifestos, the parties must spell out how and when they will deliver on their promises.

Who’s going to be brave enough to acknowledge the unpalatable fact that hefty toll fees exist in a Britain where – after paying numerous car, fuel and insurance taxes – our roads are supposed to be free at the point of use? Except they’re not.

For example, drive a car via the Dartford Crossing to the nearby outskirts of London and you may have to pay up to three tolls – first for crossing the Thames (£2), then six miles later the Greater London ULEZ racket (£12.50), followed some 13 miles further on by the Inner London Congestion Charge (£15). So some motorists driving those 19 miles of strictly non-motorway roads pay £29.50 daily. This equates to around £1.50 a mile – in a country whose road network is supposedly toll free.

In its manifesto, each party has to say exactly how it intends to deal with these and other hot topics that adversely affect already-beleaguered drivers. Will toll fees of similar magnitude be rolled out across other cities and their surrounding counties? And how long before that current figure of £1.50 per mile rises to £2 or £3?

Answers are desperately needed. And demanding them are the circa 40 million driving-licence holders of Britain, who also happen to have voting cards up their sleeves. If that doesn’t give us the balance of power, I don’t know who or what does.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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