Former Sex Pistol John Lydon blames immigration for ‘division’ in UK

Ex-punk rocker has been accused of ‘hypocrisy’ by critics who point out that his own parents were immigrants

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 09 March 2024 15:41 GMT
John Lydon blames immigration for 'division' in UK

John Lydon has lashed out at the apparent effects of immigration in the UK during a fiery interview in which he doubled down on his support for Brexit.

The former Sex Pistol, who is himself the son of immigrants, decried Britain’s seaside towns as “run down” and full of “prospective immigrants”, which he claimed has fueled “animosity in communities”.

Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, rose to fame with the punk band in the mid-Seventies with songs such as “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the UK”.

In recent years he has adopted right-wing political stances including throwing his weight behind Brexit, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.

But his remarks sparked a backlash from migrant charities who branded him “an old punk rocker... shamefully choosing to demonise marginalised communities”.

Speaking to LBC host Andrew Marr on Thursday evening, Lydon said that much of his forthcoming tour is taking place in seaside towns, which he claimed indicate how “run down” Britain has become.

“They used to be fantastic places when I was a kid,” the 68-year-old told Marr. “Mum and dad would drag us off for what felt like hours in a traffic jam, but it was absolutely great, it was working-class people throwing sand at each other… and the environment was economically thriving, I suppose. It was vibrant.”

Now, Lydon claimed, those towns are “full” of “prospective immigrants… which are really illegals [who are] not being cared for properly, but they shouldn’t have been accepted in such vast numbers”.

“It’s created a real animosity in communities,” he continued. “The division… when you import so many people with a completely different point of view, they’re not going to adapt to yours, they’re going to stay and bring the problems they’re allegedly escaping from with them.”

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The Sex Pistols (Lydon second from left) at their first gig in 1975 (PA Archive)

Marr then asked Lydon what the difference was between “Britain importing the Lydons” from Ireland and the current situation.

“The first thing my mum and dad would tell me when I was very young was, ‘You’re British now, be British, and be proud of it,’” Lydon responded.

“Most excellent advice, and I’ve followed through.”

Lydon reaffirmed his support for Brexit in spite of its impact on the economy, remarking: “I’d rather a faltering economy than a dictatorship.”

In January, a damning report by Cambridge Econometrics found that the decision to leave the EU has already cost the UK £140bn, and is predicted to leave Britain’s economy £311bn worse off by 2035.

Lydon’s remarks on LBC sparked criticism on social media, with many pointing out what they perceived as hypocrisy in his attacks on immigration, given his own family history.

Steve Smith, CEO of Care4Calais, told The Independent: “These are rotten comments from an old punk rocker who made his name railing against the establishment.

“Now he is shamefully choosing to demonise marginalised communities, rather than blame those in power for the decline of the UK’s economy, public services and communities.”

John Lydon on LBC (Screenshot)

“Son-of-immigrants and husband-of-an-immigrant John Lydon ranting about immigrants has at least proved one thing: punk is a young man’s game,” David Williamson wrote on X/Twitter.

Lydon was married to Nora Forster, a German-born music promoter who moved to the UK in the Sixties, for 44 years.

Amra Watson commented: “John Lydon joins the right-wing brigade and blames the lack of investment, sewage in rivers & seas, lack of local services, and we may add, low wages, cost of living crisis, NHS queues, child poverty, crumbling schools, corruption… on immigration.”

“John Lydon provides this year’s least punk interview,” another critic said. “Son of Irish migrants and Irish passport holder, Lydon migrated to the USA decades ago and has taken out US citizenship. And without a shred of self-awareness, he asserts that immigration is destroying Britain.”

John Lydon’s wife, Nora Forster, was born in Germany before moving to London in the Sixties (Getty Images)

Lydon threw his support behind Brexit after the EU referendum, during an appearance on ITV breakfast show Good Morning Britain.

“Where do I stand on Brexit?” he asked. “Well, here it goes, the working class have spoken and I’m one of them and I’m with them.”

In the same interview, Lydon said that the then-newly elected US president Donald Trump was a “complicated fellow” who had been “smeared by the left-wing media”.

“One journalist once said to me, ‘is he the political Sex Pistol?’ In a way,” he added. “What I dislike is the left-wing media in America are trying to smear the bloke as a racist and that’s completely not true.

“There are many, many problems with him as a human being but he’s not that and there just might be a chance something good will come out of that situation because he terrifies politicians.

“This is a joy to behold for me. Dare I say, [he could be] a possible friend.”

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