LONDON (Reuters) – The failure of Britain’s Labor Party to take the former parliamentary seat of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in this week’s election shows the opposition party still has a long way to go to come to power, leader Keir Starmer said on Saturday.

Labor won a once-secure Conservative parliamentary seat in the north of England on the same day, but the narrow defeat in Uxbridge and South Ruislip has given Prime Minister Rishi Sunak some breathing space as he seeks to reduce Labour’s large lead in the polls ahead of a national election scheduled for next year.

“If anyone needs to be reminded that there is still a long way to go, Uxbridge is the reminder,” Starmer said in a speech at the Labor National Policy Forum. “That result at Uxbridge shows that there is never a reason to be complacent.”

Starmer said on Friday that the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), planned for next month by the capital’s Labor mayor, Sadiq Khan, had been instrumental in keeping his candidate from winning Uxbridge.

For his part, Khan said ULEZ’s expansion policy is still the right one.

The Conservatives made attacking the flagship anti-pollution policy the focus of their campaign.

The ULEZ expansion has sparked a fierce citywide debate, pitting the mayor and health activists against those who say they cannot tolerate another economic shock at a time when costs of living are soaring.

“In an election, politics is important,” Starmer said Saturday. “We are doing something very wrong if the policies put forward by the Labor Party end up in every single Tory (Conservative) pamphlet. We have to face that and learn our lesson.”

“We have to seriously ask ourselves: are our priorities the priorities of the workers or are they just baggage that shows them that we don’t see the country through their eyes?”

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Helen Popper)

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