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London borough Conservative group posts images to social media likening low-traffic neighbourhoods to apartheid

Tottenham Conservatives – who have no seats on the council – claim they would “abolish Labour LTNs” introduced in Haringey

A Conservative group in the London Borough of Haringey has posted images to social media likening low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) currently being rolled out in the borough to the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s.

An image posted on social media by Tottenham Conservatives at the weekend, but which since appears to have been deleted, shows a picture of a sign written in English and Afrikaans at a whites-only beach in apartheid-era South Africa, and below that a picture of planters at an LTN.

Old Apartheid New Apartheid

The words ‘The Old Apartheid’ have been superimposed on the upper picture, and ‘The New Apartheid’ on the lower one.

While that specific post appears to have been deleted from Tottenham Conservatives’ social media feeds, a number of others on Facebook and Twitter make clear their opposition to LTNs, which were heavily promoted by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as a key part of encouraging active travel to help the country in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

LTNs are currently in place in three areas of Haringey – Bounds Green, Bruce Grove and West Green – under the council’s Haringey Streets for People initiative, which it says were introduced after three rounds of engagement with the local community, and with exemptions available for a number of categories of people including Blue Badge holders.

Despite the fact that LTNs have been a key Conservative policy at national level, Tottenham Conservatives have pledged “to abolish Labour LTNs,” claiming that they “have led to endless traffic jams, chaos and congestion,” arguments often employed against such interventions, which primarily aim to prevent rat-running drivers from using residential streets as short-cuts to avoid congested main roads.

To abolish the LTNs in the borough, the Conservatives would first have to gain control of it, something that has not happened for more than half a century, and it is over a decade since the party even had a councillor elected there.

Haringey Council has been controlled by Labour ever since the borough was created in 1964, other than a three-year period from 1968 when the Conservatives won a solid majority there.

Since the turn of the Millennium, the Tories have held just one seat on the council, from 2009-10, with the Liberal Democrats providing the main opposition in the borough.

According to 2016 Greater London Assembly population projections cited by Haringey Council in its State of the Borough profile published in June this year, 16.5 per cent of residents in 2020 were estimated to be from a black ethnic group, and 10.1 per cent Asian.

And as London Cycling Campaign pointed out last week, less than half of households in the borough have access to a motor vehicle.

While conveniently ignoring the fact that especially in many parts of London, car ownership is by no means the norm, opponents of LTNs have regularly used inflammatory language against them, including likening them to apartheid.

As we reported in November last year, the leader of the 10 Conservative Councillors on Hounslow Council was forced to apologise after comparing to apartheid ones put in place in Chiswick.

> Tory councillor apologises for comparing LTNs to South Africa’s apartheid era pass laws

Councillor Gerald McGregor subsequently sought to clarify his comments by explaining that what he actually meant were the pass laws that were in place in South Africa until the 1980s and which imposed severe restrictions on black people in terms of travel, residence, employment and citizenship.

“I used the word ‘apartheid’ as Hounslow seems to be preventing people from using their vehicles,” he said. “What I meant were the pass laws. That’s actually what is happening in Chiswick right now.”

Labour councillor Salman Shaheen described Councillor McGregor as “a bombastic dinosaur … from another era.

“It’s shocking for a modern-day politician to compare apartheid to the traffic challenges of Chiswick,” he added.

“It’s so out of touch. They are using language that is disgracing themselves.”

Councillor McGregor subsequently apologised for his comments, saying: “The language is inappropriate and has understandably caused offence to residents and this was never my intention.

“My words fell well short of the high standards by which I try to conduct myself in public life and, while I will never stop standing up for people across the London Borough of Hounslow, I recognise that in future I must take more care with the language I use.”

Another Conservative member of Hounslow Council, Councillor Joanna Biddulph, was criticised after claiming that active travel interventions in Chiswick were like “Belfast during the Troubles,” and she also claimed LTNs introduced in Grove Park and Strand on the Green would turn the area into a “ghetto.”

More recently, former chair of Chiswick Riverside Conservatives David Giles was suspended from the local party after he described Labour Hounslow councillors as “the Brentford Taliban.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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22 comments

Avatar
Muddy Ford | 1 year ago
5 likes

Why are councillors who make public statements like this not sacked?  "I apologise I got caught" doesn't improve trust. 

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chrisonabike replied to Muddy Ford | 1 year ago
0 likes

Because the standard for moral rectitude in councils seems very low?  Even criminal activity is not necessarily a bar (cf. a page of stories in Private Eye every two weeks...)

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Steve K | 1 year ago
5 likes

The irony is that it turns out that it's those who oppose LTNs who are racist.

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brooksby replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
1 like
Steve K wrote:

The irony is that it turns out that it's some but not all of those who oppose LTNs who are racist.

In the interests of balance  3

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steaders1 | 1 year ago
0 likes

Keep politics out of cycling

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Hirsute replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago
6 likes

How does that work then with LTNs, Active Travel, Local Transport Policy ?

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chrisonabike replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago
3 likes

That is either "I'm alright Jack" or "I'll cycle regardless and the police can take my Colnago from my cold dead hands".  For anything other than complete neglect (and virtual disappearence of cycling) that's a dream.  For example cycling is generally a much less partisan issue in The Netherlands - it has support across the spectrum.  However even there it's something that car-favouring politicians can still drop quite quickly - until the popular clamour reminds them.

In the UK this is non-partisan in the sense that none of the main parties care.  As far as I can see they see it as an irrelevance and actively supporting it as an own-goal.  At best.  All are happy to "send thoughts and prayers" eg. talk earnestly about "growing cycling" / "encouraging walking, wheeling and cycling".  However sensible sums money and more importantly supporting the necessary changes?  Rare as rocking-horse poo.

Cycling is intensely partisan in the UK as anyone who favours it or - god forbid - restricts motoring - is immediately attacked on many fronts.  "Loony and impractical" / "pandering to an entitled and priveledged minority" / "but what about workers / the poor / the old and disabled / the ambulances won't get through / you're anti-business and development / blocking people's aspirations ..."

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hutchdaddy | 1 year ago
3 likes

Pure desperation on the part of the Tories. It's just so embarassing how  out of touch they are with the voters in Haringey and with reality.

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
11 likes

"Councillor McGregor subsequently apologised for his comments, saying: “The language is inappropriate and has understandably caused offence to residents and this was never my intention."

It isn't the language councillor, it's the ingrained, fascistic attitude that it reveals.

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chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
10 likes

I'd say more "knowingly skating down the border of racism".  Pretty common in a certain political sphere.  This is the linguistic equivalent of deliberately stepping on people's feet then saying "oh, sorry!  Didn't mean to hurt you!"  Would he have been aware that the language was inappropriate?  Yes, he was.  Could he have understood it would cause offense?  Yes, yes he did.  You're a politician, you say?  But "this was never my intention".

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Rome73 | 1 year ago
6 likes

the conservatives would never gain a majority in Haringey anyway. Which may be one of the reasons they post this sort of rubbish. 

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Simon_MacMichael replied to Rome73 | 1 year ago
5 likes

A single councillor would be a start. As alluded to in the story.

And yes, I think you hit a nail on the head here, opposition factions that have no hope of being elected (or even if they do get some seats, have no chance of forming a majority) do seem happy to whip up opposition to LTNs, policies in favour of helping marganilised people, etc without ever having fear of feeling the consequences at the polling station.

It's the worst kind of politics.

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ktache | 1 year ago
9 likes

We know they really dont get it, but it's not that the Africans have to go a slightly longer and a little more inconvenient route to the beach.

It's LOW traffic, not no traffic.

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wycombewheeler replied to ktache | 1 year ago
9 likes
ktache wrote:

We know they really dont get it, but it's not that the Africans have to go a slightly longer and a little more inconvenient route to the beach.

It's LOW traffic, not no traffic.

But also anyone can CHOOSE to use a bike, and so not be excluded, whereas people can't choose to be white to go to the beach.

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chrisonabike replied to wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
5 likes

Indeed, a lot more people can use (properly designed) cycle infra and would benefit from reduced traffic than have access to - never mind legally drive - cars.

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IanMK | 1 year ago
13 likes

Particularly given the ambivalent Conservative attitude to apartheid during the Thatcher era, including the views of the former PM Cameron, I find this comment disgusting and offensive. Beyond contempt.

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iandusud | 1 year ago
11 likes

The only comparaison to apartheid with regard to LTNs in Haringey would be removing them to the benefit of the priviledged minority (car owners). 

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the little onion | 1 year ago
19 likes

Yes, because a brutal, racist, undemocratic regime is totally comparable to a plan to make drivers go the long way round some neighbourhood streets......

 

Is there a South African version of Godwin's Law?

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Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
11 likes
Quote:

To abolish the LTNs in the borough, the Conservatives would first have to gain control of it, something that has not happened for more than half a century, and it is over a decade since the party even had a councillor elected there.

Alexa, give me a definition of "utterly irrelevant", would you?

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andystow | 1 year ago
14 likes

Indistinguishable from satire.

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SimoninSpalding replied to andystow | 1 year ago
3 likes

Except satire is *supposed* to be funny.

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IanMSpencer replied to SimoninSpalding | 1 year ago
3 likes

That's debatable, in my day it meant complicated sketches with no punchline, and some lady singing jazz who got polite applause at the end with David Frost leering at the camera. I don't ever remember laughter.  3

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