The speech made by Jonathan Gullis, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, in the House of Commons on 23 May 2022.
The people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke warmly welcome this important legislation, because it is doing exactly what they want to see: holding those criminals accountable for their criminality. No one is standing here seriously suggesting that, when the people of Stoke-on-Trent go to Hanley town centre to stand together to protest for the rights of the Kashmiri people—I have attended in person—the police will come in heavy-handed while we stand peacefully and speak through a microphone to constituents and residents from across the area to raise concerns about the human rights abuses happening to the people of Kashmir.
No one is saying that, when certain trade unions want to stand peacefully outside my office in protest, to demonstrate against some cause, I am expecting the police to come in and round those people up. I am not. I welcome them coming outside my office. I am more than happy to hear their cause, and engage with them in conversation and debate. Even if we end up agreeing to disagree, no one in their right mind is saying that the police are going to prevent that action from happening. No one in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke believes for a second that that would be appropriate. If that were the case with this legislation, I would stand up to oppose the Bill. But I am supporting it because it is doing something: tackling criminal behaviour.
People gluing themselves to the M25, where people are traveling at 70 miles an hour—women and children in cars that could easily crash, ending up with loss of life —are apparently willing to sacrifice their own safety and their own lives for a cause. However, they are not even able to stand up for their beliefs and values. The hypocritical nature of those campaigns is what drives people berserk in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke.
For example, Liam Norton from Insulate Britain says he “doesn’t care” about insulating homes—his words. He does not even insulate his own home. He has no insulation in the walls and has single pane glass. People simply do not like hypocrites. He even called himself a hypocrite. We are talking about individuals who are running campaigns—some crusty eco-woke warrior wanting to make some sort of point on Twitter, so they can get lots of likes from the far left that make that particular social media platform vile and abusive. Thank God I am not on it; great for my mental health. Then we see their actions. Gail Bradbrook from Extinction Rebellion drives a diesel car and takes an 11,000-mile round trip to Costa Rica, contributing 2.6 tonnes of carbon footprint, which is a quarter of a Brit’s yearly average.
Practice what you preach. Do not stand up and virtue-signal for the sake of it or try to pontificate—as the Labour party regularly does—in order to make a point that will get a few more likes in woke London or on Twitter. Instead, stand up for people of this country who want to see an end to criminal behaviour by those jumping on top of tube trains or blocking lorries, for example, some of which are carrying cooking oil or carrying oil at a time when we have a global fuel crisis. Those are the type of mad things that people are sick of seeing.
Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
My hon. Friend is right that these are largely deranged members of the bourgeoise making working people’s lives difficult, but, actually, the situation is more serious still. In the case of the demonstrations and protests that he describes, the action meant holding up an ambulance on its way to an emergency and stopping a woman getting to the home of her 95-year-old mother who had had a fall. It meant that the people protesting were wholly and completely disregarding the horror and pain that they were causing. That shows the sort of people they are. This is about not hypocrisy, but carelessness and heartlessness.
My right hon. Friend makes a fantastic point. Let us think about the people who were not able to get to their cancer screening appointment; the children who were not able to be in school because of lockdown and who are having their education in the classroom—with their expert classroom teacher—further delayed; the emergency services trying to go about their jobs, having to deal with protesters; and the police from as far away as Scotland coming down to London, meaning that they are not on the streets of the local areas that they should be serving, allowing criminals potentially to run wild there because of some selfish individuals.
The hon. Gentleman keeps going on about criminals, saying “We’ve got to get rid of these criminals” and “We’ve got to do something about these criminals.” He is characterising an awful lot of people as criminals. If they are already criminals, that means that they have committed a crime and have already been charged and found guilty—or he thinks that they should have been, so why have they not been? Incidentally, the Bill creates an awful lot of civil offences. Those are not criminal either, so why and on what basis is he calling such people criminals?
I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. She says that I talk about criminals. She referred earlier to the Black Lives Matter protest, and I have absolutely no issue with having that important debate about racial inequality in society and looking at what more can be done. However, when a particular individual went up on the Cenotaph and tried to set alight the Union flag, as though it was somehow making some sort of demonstration—this is a memorial to our glorious dead who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their tomorrow for our today—that was criminal behaviour. That is why that needs to be called out and why I introduced the Desecration of War Memorials Bill, which was accepted by the Government and became part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. I did so despite the sniping from the Labour party, which claimed that I was more interested in protecting statues—it was not statues; it was war memorials to the glorious dead and war graves so that every village, every town and every city of our country remembers those who made those important sacrifices. I am someone who lost a friend when he was serving his nation in Afghanistan. That is why I felt so incensed by those disgusting, vile scenes that I saw up on the Cenotaph.
That is why any Opposition Member who does not understand why this Bill is important is seriously out of touch with the people of this country. It is the silent majority, time and again. The problem is that the Labour party is obsessed with Twitter being somehow the mouthpiece of Britain, or with any other woke, virtue-signalling thing such as Channel 4 that Labour seems to believe must be right on every single issue. That is the problem with the Labour party and why it was so overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Stoke-on-Trent—in Stoke-on-Trent North, Stoke-on-Trent Central and Stoke-on-Trent South, for the first time.
If Labour Members want any more proof, they should look at the May local elections in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Labour was touted to take control of that council in every single national poll and every single national newspaper. The Labour party was openly briefing that it would win that council. The Labour leader of the group at that time openly said at the count that that was their No. 1 target council, and that Labour had thrown all the extra money and resources at it. What happened? The Conservatives took that council with seven gains. They took it from no overall control to being Conservative-led for the first time in that council’s history, while Labour went backwards. If that is not a wake-up signal, I do not know what is.
It is very pleasing to see that my hon. Friend has finally come off the fence in support of this very important Bill. With the Opposition—especially the Labour party—continually voting against the measures that this Government are introducing to protect the people of this country, does he think that it may be a good idea for those Labour MPs to come to Stoke-on-Trent North, Ashfield, Dudley or Ipswich and speak to some real people in real places?
I could not agree more. I think we do need to organise a trip round the red wall so that Labour Members can actually understand why the Labour party lost those seats. [Interruption.] I hear the sniggering from Opposition Members when I mention Stoke-on-Trent. The only Stoke that the Labour party is aware of is Stoke Newington. They have not gone any further north than that in the last number of years, which is why, again, we have a Conservative-led Stoke-on-Trent City Council, a Conservative-run Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and a Conservative-run Staffordshire County Council. Under Tony Blair, a man who actually used to win Labour elections, it used to have six of the 12 MPs for the local area. Labour ran the county council at one stage, had control of Stoke city council and ran Newcastle borough council. Those are the facts.
Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
I do not even want to thank the hon. Member for giving way to me, because frankly, his speech is becoming quite insulting. He is talking to Members of Parliament who were elected by the people—in my case, by the people of Battersea—to represent them. I am really grateful that, finally, the people of Wandsworth decided to vote for Labour and kick the Tories out after 44 years of rule to elect a Labour council. We know what the people of London need and we do not need to take lessons from the hon. Member.
Well, Croydon spoke quite loudly, if I remember correctly, by deciding to elect a Conservative Mayor and upping the amount of councillors in Croydon. We had places like Bromley holding on, and Old Bexley and Sidcup, and Harrow going towards the Conservative party. And there is now mass opposition to the mental plan of the Mayor of London, who wants to expand the ultra low emission zone across the whole Greater London area, smashing 135,000 drivers in the pocket with a daily charge and killing small businesses. If this is Labour-run London, God forbid a Labour-run United Kingdom. It would be absolutely terrifying to see what could happen to our community. [Interruption.] It is lovely to see you in the Chair now by the way, Madam Deputy Speaker.
This Bill is so important because it is about making sure that action is taken if someone wants to glue themselves to a train, risk their health and wellbeing, and delay people going to work to earn their money at a time when we are facing a global crisis with inflation, a global crisis with the cost of energy, and a global crisis of food prices, because of events happening in Ukraine, as well as the fact, obviously, that we are coming out of a global lockdown—I know that Labour Members seem to want to pretend that that did not exist. Ultimately, all those things put together mean that, when people are not able to go about their daily lives because of a mindless minority of morons who want to act in an inappropriate way by blocking the road, stopping the trains, stopping oil tankers and smashing up petrol stations, this Bill is necessary.
Finally, I appreciate that the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), is no longer in her place, but I thought that, when she stood at the Dispatch Box today, she gave a very passionate and good speech about why the actions of Insulate Britain, Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil were unlawful. She made a fantastic point about why action needs to be taken, so the House can imagine why the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke are simply baffled that Labour Members will not join us in the Lobby this evening and will instead vote against a Bill that they seem in principle to support. However, because of certain Back Benchers, they just do not want to face that rebellion and stare it down. It is a shame that the Labour party has a long way to go.