Boris Johnson brands Insulate Britain ‘irresponsible crusties’ for blocking motorways

Prime minister’s comments come as home secretary confirms plans for tougher powers against activist groups

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 05 October 2021 12:35 BST
Boris Johnson has branded Insulate Britain protesters who have blocked major UK roads “irresponsible crusties”
Boris Johnson has branded Insulate Britain protesters who have blocked major UK roads “irresponsible crusties” (Steve Parsons/PA)

Boris Johnson has branded protesters who have blocked major UK roads “irresponsible crusties”.

The prime minister said Insulate Britain activists, who have blocked highways across the southeast in recent weeks, have been “doing considerable damage to the economy”.

His comments came after demonstrators on Monday clashed with motorists near the Blackwall Tunnel in east London, including one tearful woman desperate to get to her elderly mother who had been taken hospital.

Mr Johnson told LBC: “There are some people who call those individuals legitimate protesters.

“They are not. 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.

“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.”

Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed in her Conservative Party conference speech plans for tougher powers against the likes of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion.

She said: “It is because of our commitment to putting the needs of the hard-working, often silent, majority first that I will not tolerate so called eco-warriors trampling over our way of life and draining police resources.

“Their actions over recent weeks have amounted to some of the most self-defeating ‘environmental’ protests this country has ever seen. Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our party will forever fight to uphold. But it must be within the law.

Priti Patel at the Tory conference (Getty Images)

“Measures already going through Parliament will ensure these criminals can be brought to justice for the disruption they are causing. But we are going further to close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders.

“So, today, I can announce I will also increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, criminalise interference with key infrastructure such as roads, railways and our free press, and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities.”

Protesters from Insulate Britain have blocked major roads including the M25 and the M4 in recent weeks.

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

Prime minster Boris Johnson poses with a bike during The Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester (Neil Hall/EPA)

Ms Patel also confirmed an expansion in testing suspects for drugs on arrest across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

She told the conference: “Those who test positive as confirmed drug users will be supported to tackle their drug abuse and regain their independence.

“But for those unwilling to address their drug misuse, there will be the harshest possible legal sanctions and consequences.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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