Yesterday was a bad day for the iconic White Van Man. A wealthy member of the Labour party’s shadow cabinet tweeted a picture which appeared to mock a house festooned in England flags and which had a large Transit van on the drive.

Although the shadow minister resigned within hours of the errant tweet, it did much to reinforce the idea that Middle England’s White Van stereotype was one that could be openly laughed at.

So if WVM is feeling unloved by the metropolitan elite this morning, things might be about to take a turn for the worse. As we report today, a European Court of Justice ruling has dramatically brought forward the likelihood of ‘ultra low emission zones’ being created in Britain’s most densely trafficked urban areas, which would almost certainly sweep nearly all pre-2009 diesel vehicles off the road.

I admit that it seems highly unlikely. Simply outlawing the backbone of Britain’s commercial transport network with a couple of years’ notice is too ridiculous to even entertain.

But it could happen. The UK’s Supreme Court has been ordered by the European Court of Justice to force the Government to rapidly address air pollution, which, in many places in the UK, is well over EU-mandated limits.

While I entirely sympathise with any White Van People who might, by now, be fuming at ‘European’ meddling in the UK’s affairs, I fear this is one of the few times the EU’s attentions have been welcome. There’s no doubt that we have to get a grip on diesel-fired pollution.

There again, this situation is thanks to the European Union’s utterly inexcusable failure to get a grip on the problems of diesel power much earlier.

The US and Japan has long had a distaste for diesel and the associate pollution, which is shown clearly in the graphic (compiled by Bosch) accompanying our news story. In the US Clean Air laws – which covered all types of pollutants – came in with force for cars back in1975.

Europe, by contrast had a happier relationship with diesel, which originally became popular in the 1970s because of the engine’s simplicity and longevity.