Yesterday evening, the 2018 State of London debate was held at the O2 in North Greenwich. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was present; the event was hosted by LBC presenter James O’Brien. It was an excellent opportunity for the public to exercise their right to free speech. Which, it seems, included the opportunity to protest.
As LBC reported, “This is the moment pro-Tommy Robinson protesters interrupted Sadiq Khan as the Mayor of London opened the State of London Debate 2018 … The event was temporarily suspended as the demonstrators were escorted from the indigo O2 in North Greenwich on Thursday night”. And what was all that about?
“Mr Khan was paying tribute to the recent victims of London’s terror attacks when the hecklers began … Other members of the audience shouted ‘sit down’ as the protesters shouted ‘you should be sacked’ … They then began chanting the name of former EDL leader Tommy Robinson … James O’Brien, who was hosting the event, told the group ‘we would have been happy to hear from you had you waited your turn’”.
So far, so tedious: one cannot object to free dissenting speech. But it was the backstory that should cause disquiet among all those who do not yet take the far right seriously. The protests, it seems, were connected to an incident where a drunk driver ran over and killed three teenage boys. Jaynesh Chudasama had entered a guilty plea; in the event, as he had fled the scene, this counted for little, and he was jailed for 13 years.
The maximum jail sentence at present for death by dangerous driving is 14 years. But what does this have to do with Sadiq Khan, and indeed Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson? Ah well. Rather than keep out of the matter, Lennon has been egging on at least one of the bereaved parents into believing that this was a terrorist attack. It wasn’t. The driver was drunk. And he wasn’t a Scary Muslim™.
That has not reassured Tracy Blackwell, whose son John McGuinness was one of those killed. She has been to speak at Lennon’s events, she Retweets those claiming George Soros was behind last weekend’s Peoples Vote march, as well as Geert Wilders. She appeals to Donald Trump for attention. She wants to see Lennon freed. And she was, it seems, one of those protesting at the State of London debate yesterday.
Stephen Lennon, rather than telling Tracy Blackwell that her son was killed by a drunk driver, has backed the view that is summed up by the claim “they were mowed down and murdered by terrorists. Ever since that day the Establishment, Met Police and the CPS have conspired to keep the truth away from all of us”.
No-one can bring Josh McGuinness and his two pals back. The grief experienced by Tracy Blackwell and those other parents cannot be imagined. And that just makes it worse that the likes of Stephen Lennon have exploited that grief in order to fuel the pretence that this was a terrorist attack. The Met know a bit about terrorist attacks. And they have tried their best to tell Ms Blackwell and the other parents that it really wasn’t.
The more that Stephen Lennon manipulates people in this way, the more likely it will end very badly. Pretending the Police are the enemy is not clever. Claiming the Mayor is in on the non-existent conspiracy is worse. This stoking of resentment has got to stop.