Sadiq Khan suggests opponents making common cause with conspiracy theorists
Protesters gathered outside the event at Ealing Town Hall
March 3, 2023
Sadiq Khan provoked anger on Thursday night after decrying a “far right” element among protesters who rallied against his plan to expand the Ultra low emission zone (ULEZ).
A crowd of people had gathered to express their opposition to the plan at Ealing Town Hall, where the Mayor of London was participating in a ‘People’s Question Time’ event.
Mr Khan was there to field questions from residents on a range of topics, from policing to housing, but his controversial ULEZ plan dominated the evening.
While most of the concerned audience members seemed solely worried about the ULEZ expansion and its financial impact, several protestors outside the event also cited conspiracy theories about so-called 15-minute cities and the supposed introduction of “social credit systems” in Britain.
Signs held by some of the protesters claimed that there would be an “end of free movement” as a result of schemes like ULEZ and a “UN agenda”. Others depicted Mr Khan with both a swastika and a hammer-and-sickle symbol.
Amid frequent heckles from the crowd who had gathered to ask him questions, Mr Khan said: “What I find unacceptable is some of those who’ve got legitimate objections [about ULEZ] joining hands with some of those outside, who are part of a far right group.
“Let’s be frank, let’s call a spade a spade. Some of those outside are part of the far right. Some are Covid deniers. Some are vaccine-deniers. And some are Tories.”
As the Mayor said this, members of the crowd shouted back: “We are not the far right – normal people are not the far right.”
Mr Khan later said: “There are people with legitimate concerns. We’re seeking to address those, and we’ll make sure we carry on listening, to make the ULEZ a success.”
The Mayor addresses the meeting at Ealing Town Hall
Conservative Assembly Member Peter Fortune hit back at Mr Khan’s comments, prompting cheers from the crowd as he said: “You heard it didn’t you? If you disagree with the Mayor, he’s going to paint you as far right.
“If you disagree with the Mayor, he’s going to say you’re a science-denier, he’s going to say you’re a Covid-denier, he’s going to say you’re a flat-earther, he’s going to say you think there are aliens in Buckingham Palace, and Mr Blobby shot Kennedy.
“He’s going to throw all this stuff at you, because he doesn’t want to address the fact you’ve got legitimate concerns.”
Peter Fortune AM at the event. Picture: London Assembly
A range of questions were asked at the event, but ULEZ re-occured as a topic throughout. One audience member challenged Mr Khan on the fact that the ULEZ plan was not included in his 2021 election manifesto, while questions were also asked about how much evidence there was that the expanded ULEZ will significantly reduce pollution.
The ULEZ currently covers the area inside the North and South Circular Roads, but Mr Khan intends to expand the zone to cover all of Greater London – effectively taking it up to most roads inside the M25 motorway – on August 29. Drivers of non-compliant vehicles within the ULEZ have to pay a daily charge of £12.50.
The expansion plan has come up against opposition from councils in outer London and the home counties, who mainly argue that the zone’s expansion will do little to improve air quality – and is being introduced at the worst possible time, because of the cost of living crisis.
Mr Khan claims that five million more Londoners will breathe cleaner air if the ULEZ expands to cover the whole city and he points out that around 4,000 premature deaths in London per year are due in part to poor air quality.
A spokesman for Mr Khan said on Friday, “The Mayor completely stands by his decision to call out the vile messages on display outside the event in Ealing. Those who came to protest included some of most dangerous spreaders of vaccine conspiracy theories and people displaying Nazi symbols.
“Whether in London or in any other part of the country, dangerous conspiracy theories and abhorrent far-right activity should always be condemned in the strongest possible form.”
Noah Vickers - Local Democracy Reporter
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