Londoners today demanded David Cameron and Ed Miliband do more to tackle “toxic” air pollution blighting the city.
Ahead of a Supreme Court judgement on Britain’s failure to meet a key EU air quality standard, nearly seven out of ten Londoners accused political leaders of not doing enough or ignoring the problem altogether of “silent killer” fumes on the capital’s streets.
Ninety per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters voiced this view, as did nearly three quarters of Labour backers and 72 per cent of Londoners intending to vote Conservative on May 7.
The stark findings in a YouGov poll for The Standard piled pressure on the Prime Minister, Labour leader, Nick Clegg and Boris Johnson to dramatically step up action to clean up London’s air.
“It’s not surprising that so many Londoners think politicians aren’t doing enough to tackle air pollution,” said Green leader Natalie Bennett.
“The Government’s inaction on air pollution is inexcusable, and follows a general trend from the Establishment parties of side-lining issues such as climate change and air quality.”
Most of the country’s pollution black spots are in the capital and scientists say thousands of Londoners are dying prematurely a year due to filthy air.
Tomorrow the Government will be in the dock when senior judges deliver a landmark ruling, in a case brought by campaign group ClientEarth, over the UK missing deadlines to cut nitrogen dioxide levels.
Levels in London are only set to fall within EU limits after 2030 and the Supreme Court judgement could force ministers to take more decisive action.
Coalition rifts were laid bare today over measures in recent years to reduce levels of NO2 and particulate pollution in London, which is partly blamed on older diesel vehicles.
The Conservatives stressed Mayor of London Boris Johnson had been driving forward “the most comprehensive and ambitious measures in the world” to improve London’s air quality, with the cleanest large bus fleet of any city and taxi age limits taking thousands of the oldest and most polluting cabs off the road.
“This has meant that emissions of particulate matter has reduced by 15 per cent and oxides of nitrogen by 20 per cent and the numbers of Londoners living in areas of poor air quality has halved,” said a Tory spokesman.
The Mayor’s ultra low emission zone, due to be enforced from 2020, would be “transformative” for London’s air quality, he added.
But Lib-Dem Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: ““We’ve been let down by Boris and the Conservatives who simply haven’t seen this as a priority.
“Air pollution is now a serious health risk and Liberal Democrats want to see swift nationwide action.”
Shadow environment minister Barry Gardiner said London was faced with a “public health crisis”.
Labour’s plan to improve air quality is focussed on devolving power and supporting town halls “to take action against this silent killer,” he added.
The survey also showed Lib-Dem backers were the most dismayed about political parties’ stance on air pollution, with 27 per cent of them believing they were ignoring the problem altogether.
More Labour supporters, 30 per cent, thought political leaders were talking about pollution but not doing anywhere near enough.
While 44 per cent of Londoners intending to vote Conservatives said the parties were taking some action but not doing enough.
One in 14 Ukip backers said “too much action” was being taken on pollution in the capital.
Tanya Abraham of YouGov: “Hardly any Londoners think political parties are taking enough action around air pollution in the capital. Campaigners will be hoping these figures bring more focus on this subject. Whether politicians will do anything about it remains to be seen, however.”