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Promises must be honoured on Oxford Street, pedestrianisation is not on!

11 May, 2018

At the launch of CAPOS: campaigners Ron Whelan, Michael Dunn and Kevin Coyne

• IT is clear from the election results that Campaign against Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street (CAPOS) drew its support from the followers of all of the parties standing.

CAPOS pushed its single issue right to the forefront of the political agenda. Even after the timely turn-around on pedestrianisation by the two major parties, CAPOS gained substantially more votes in each of the three wards contested than any of the Green or Liberal Democrat candidates standing there.

In two of those three wards even the main opposition party was given a close run. At least three more wards nearby would likely have returned similar results if there had been sufficient funding to contest them as well.

This impressive outcome was achieved by a party which came together only one month before voting day, with none of the resources available to the national parties and run entirely by local volunteers.

This result is all the more extraordinary given that only a few weeks before Westminster Council had removed CAPOS’s raison d’être by coming out fully against the Mayor’s pedestrianisation plan.

However winning seats was never the primary reason for forming CAPOS; getting pedestrianisation abandoned was. The fact is that CAPOS achieved its goal before the first vote was cast.

Clearly the only reason that CAPOS still managed to garner so many votes, in spite of the major about-face by the two main parties, was that the electorate wanted to send a message, a reminder, to the council, not to forget their promises made on Oxford Street.

All, save the Mayor of London, are now the winners. Residents and businesses have been saved from a terrible scheme; CAPOS have made their point effectively and powerfully and the council have changed direction, just in the nick of time.

We now have a Conservative council being seen to have pulled away from a Labour mayor and his damaging plan to pedestrianise Oxford Street.

The Mayor now has a new deputy with responsibility for transport. Maybe that will help him recalibrate; perhaps he could concentrate on cleaning up his act and fixing the pollution coming from his vehicles before he tries to move them to where people live.

But if Sadiq Khan does not choose to listen to Westminster and its residents, his options will be rather limited.

If he does take this result in bad grace, if he attempts to push through a rotten plan in the face of united opposition from the West End, he cannot expect to get an easy ride. He must be prepared to alienate a significant section of the electorate in the process.

Equally, no matter how much pressure the new council may be brought under to again change their minds on Oxford Street, they must stay firm.

They own the road, they have said, “No” and they must now be fully aware that their mandate was achieved through the election promises they made and that these promises must be honoured.



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