‘Irresponsible crusties’: Boris Johnson lays into eco protesters bringing misery to roads

5 October 2021, 08:26 | Updated: 5 October 2021, 10:58

By James Morris

Boris Johnson has told LBC that Insulate Britain protesters are “irresponsible crusties”.

The prime minister, asked about the eco protesters who have been blocking key roads in and around London – including four key routes on Monday – said the protests are “insane”.

Told by Nick Ferrari to “sort this out”, Mr Johnson said this morning: “There are some people, Nick, who call those individuals ‘legitimate protesters’.

“They’re not.

Insulate Britain activists block a motorway junction near Heathrow Airport on Friday
Insulate Britain activists block a motorway junction near Heathrow Airport on Friday. Picture: Alamy

“I think they are irresponsible crusties who are basically trying to stop people going about their day’s work and doing considerable damage to the economy.”

Mr Johnson was speaking to LBC at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, where home secretary Priti Patel is set to use a speech later today to confirm plans for tougher powers against the likes of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion.

A court injunction was taken out to prevent their blockade of the M25, but demonstrations have continued, most recently on the roads across London on Monday.

Boris Johnson told LBC that the Insulate Britain protests are 'insane'
Boris Johnson told LBC that the Insulate Britain protests are 'insane'. Picture: Matt Crossick/LBC

Ms Patel is preparing to announce an increase in the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, while also criminalising interference with major roads, railways and the press.

Mr Johnson said: “That is why we have taken the powers and why Priti Patel is doing the right thing to bring in powers so they can get six months or an unlimited fine."

Tim Gough, an Insulate Britain spokesperson, laughed off Mr Johnson's “irresponsible crusties” tag. "Boris is a great wordsmith," he told LBC outside the High Court, where a hearing on the original injunction is being heard today.

And he warned "we’re going to carry on until the government actually take concrete action".

On Monday, one of the protests, blocking the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel in east London, saw one desperate motorist plead with the activists to move so she could see her mother, who was in an ambulance on the way to hospital in Canterbury, Kent.

Read more: No more tax rises to 'subsidise' low incomes, Boris Johnson tells LBC

Insulate Britain has been carrying out disruptive road protests as part of its demands for the government to provide insulation for 29 million homes and "transition towards full decarbonisation" of society and the economy.

Tracey Mallaghan, an activist at the Blackwall Tunnel blockade on Monday, defended the protests, telling LBC: "What else do we have left when after three decades we've had nothing but words and lies?"

The PM was speaking about the protests having reiterated his desire for people to return to their workplaces.

Boris Johnson told LBC the Insulate Britain protests are not legitimate
Boris Johnson told LBC the Insulate Britain protests are not legitimate. Picture: Matt Crossick/LBC

"We are certainly encouraging people to get back to work in the normal way," Mr Johnson told Nick.

He said people who work from home are going to "lose out" and "be gossiped about".

"You need to be there and you need to have the stimulus of exchange and competition."