OPINION - The Standard View: Volodymyr Zelensky – master of the charm offensive

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Volodymyr Zelensky came to London to say thank you and, crucially, to ask for more. Even the gift he handed Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle — of a Ukrainian pilot’s helmet — contained a request for fighter jets. But going by past results, from tanks to artillery, Zelensky eventually gets his way.

After leaving the capital, he flew to Paris to meet with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Olaf Scholz. Today, he addressed the European Parliament. Once again, the Ukrainian president is building international consensus in the way only he can.

While the previous debate was on tanks, the next is fighter jets and longer-range missiles. Rishi Sunak has agreed to train Ukrainians on Nato-standard planes but supplying them, whether British-made Typhoons or US-made F-16s, is another matter. Yet the principle remains unchanged: Britain should provide Kyiv with the arms it needs to defend itself and regain lost territory in the Donbas.

And so, in co-ordination with our Nato allies, the UK should send jets as part of a united Western response. That will take training and time — war is above all at battle of logistics — but starting today is better than tomorrow.

Losing plots on Ulez

Conservative councils have no compulsion to support a Labour Mayor’s top political priority. But fighting a plan to rid London of its toxic air — and spending public funds in the process — is a curious choice.

Opposition to the city-wide expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) is on some levels understandable. A cost-of-living crisis is a painful backdrop to introducing a new charge for the minority of drivers whose cars are not compliant. But it is surely not a coincidence that some of those outer London boroughs most opposed to the Ulez have done the least to incentivise the switch to cleaner forms of transport in their own backyards.

Freedom of Information requests reveal that Bexley, Bromley, Hillingdon and Harrow — four of the authorities leading the opposition to the Ulez expansion — are home to the fewest number of publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging points. Other Ulez opponents, such as Croydon and Sutton, also lag behind other councils.

The reality is there are 210 chargers for every 100,000 people in inner London — but only 80 in outer London. We still need to see a revolution in EV charging points. Instead of veiled threats and lawsuits, everyone from local authorities to City Hall, central government to private businesses must work together to provide the clean energy infrastructure that will power our city for the rest of the century.

Spoilt for choice

There was something for everyone going in the capital last night, where rave reviews were the norm. From the Lehman Trilogy at the Gillian Lynne Theatre to Peter Doig at the Courtauld Gallery, the original Sugababes to Ellie Goulding, it was impossible to go wrong.