The new tipping point: UK motorists rebel against additional taxes by shutting down highways.
After hundreds of angry drivers shut down highways in England Tuesday in protest against green automobile taxes, and drivers and fishermen in France and Spain paralyzed their ports and roads in a fuel-tax protest, politicians began to signal Europe’s ambitious emission-control policies may soon have to be abandoned. While Europe has led the way in using tax incentives to encourage people to buy low-emission cars and to build carbon-neutral houses in order to meet Kyoto targets, it has become increasingly apparent that inflation-battered voters are no longer willing to go along. Political leaders in Britain and France are seeking the reversal of tax policies designed to make polluting vehicles more expensive, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and some British ministers calling on their own governments and the European Union to relax ecologically friendly taxes in order to give relief to citizens suffering from fast-rising food and fuel prices.
The fuel protests hammer home a clear message. After the 10p tax rebellion, the local elections, and the Crewe by-election, no one can doubt the mood of the country any more. There is insurrection in the air. The British people are ready for change and they don’t believe Labour can deliver it.
Gordon Brown has been urged to stand firm against calls to abandon green tax rises on fuel as environmentalists warned that scrapping the proposals would risk undermining Britain’s drive towards a low carbon future and send the wrong message about the Government’s commitment to tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Amid fears that the gloomy financial outlook could sap the political will needed to combat climate change, Charlie Kronick, senior climate adviser at Greenpeace, said: “When they are willing to spend millions of pounds shoring up their vote in a by-election they can do this as well. How serious can they be about using the tax system to try to affect environmental outcomes when, if they are under political pressure, it is the first thing that goes?”
Drivers should not be “hammered” by the Government, Cabinet Minister John Hutton declared yesterday in a clear sign of a road tax climbdown. The Business Secretary spoke out as senior Labour sources admitted planned increases of up to £245 a year that could hit millions of family car drivers were a “mistake”.
Huge rises in road and petrol taxes for millions of motorists could be scrapped after two Cabinet ministers hinted at another U-turn in government policy.
After warnings from MPs that the party was alienating ordinary voters, Jack Straw and John Hutton suggested that the Pre-Budget report in the autumn would contain changes to plans set out by the Chancellor in March. But, in a further sign of government confusion, Downing Street and the Treasury insisted that no plans were being considered to revise the vehicle excise duty changes announced in the Budget.