Traffic-blocking eco-mob are 'putting people off' climate issues, Sadiq tells LBC

7 October 2021, 11:43 | Updated: 7 October 2021, 12:18

Sadiq Khan: Insulate Britain are putting people off their own cause

By James Morris

London mayor Sadiq Khan has told LBC he doesn’t support Insulate Britain’s controversial road blockades, saying it is putting people off the climate change discussion.

Mr Khan, appearing on the “Speak to Sadiq” call-in this morning, urged the eco protesters to raise “the really important issues… in a different way”.

In recent weeks, Insulate Britain has been carrying out disruptive road blocks in and around London as part of demands for the government to provide insulation for 29 million homes and "transition towards full decarbonisation" of society and the economy.

During its latest protest on Monday, LBC recorded footage of a tearful motorist pleading with the activists to move from east London’s Blackwall Tunnel as she needed to help her mother, who had been taken to hospital in Canterbury, Kent.

Woman pleads with eco-mob blocking Blackwall Tunnel

Mr Khan sought to appease the protesters by telling James O'Brien: “The issue I definitely support.”

However, he went on: “I don’t support the way these protesters are going about their business, not just because of the disruption, not just because of the appointments being delayed and sometimes cancelled – but actually I think it’s putting people off what is an important issue in the weeks before COP26.”

COP26 is the climate change conference, beginning at the end of the month, being hosted by the UK, with Boris Johnson’s government seeking to “inspire climate action” worldwide.

Insulate Britain protesters on an M25 slip road, near Heathrow Airport, on 27 September
Insulate Britain protesters on an M25 slip road, near Heathrow Airport, on 27 September. Picture: Getty

A number of the blockades have seen motorists clash angrily with protesters, including some drivers dragging them off the roads.

Mr Khan went on: “It’s the middle group of people they are trying to persuade to do things to reduce carbon emissions, to raise awareness – and those people are being put off this really important issue.”

On Tuesday, Insulate Britain “profoundly” apologised for causing disruption, with Mr Johnson having told LBC the protesters are “irresponsible crusties”.

Read more: 'They belong in jail': Boris Johnson backs targeting eco-protesters

However, the group pledged to carry on protesting, with spokesman Tim Gough telling LBC “we have to make things irritating and annoying for people in order for the government to take action on this point”.

Mr Khan urged them to pursue “lawful, peaceful and safe” forms of protest. He mentioned lobbying, marches and concerts as examples.

The group has also been subject to an injunction in a bid to stop protests on and around the M25. However, Mr Khan said injunctions, while being “the best there is available”, are ultimately ineffective.

Sadiq Khan: Quizzed on the legality of injunctions against protesters

“I think they’ll move on, it’s displacing.”

On Tuesday, home secretary Priti Patel confirmed plans to increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, as well as criminalise interference with key infrastructure such including roads.

During his Conservative Party conference speech on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said the protesters are a "confounded nuisance who are blocking ambulances, stopping people going about their daily lives.

Read more: LBC Views: Are climate groups simply doing more harm than good? (from 13 September)

“I’m glad Priti is taking new powers to ‘insulate’ them snugly in prison where they belong.”

The mayor added the blockades are "encouraging the government… to bring in new laws to close loopholes [to protest], which is not a good thing to do".