03 October 2023

Politicians ‘have a responsibility to be accurate’, says Tory MP

03 October 2023

Politicians “have a responsibility to make sure we are talking about facts”, a Conservative MP has said amid debate over “15-minute cities”.

Nicola Richards, MP for West Bromwich East, told an audience at the Conservative Party Conference that “sometimes colleagues need a reminder of their language” during an event discussing conspiracy theories.

Her comments followed questions about comments made by ministers on the conference floor, including claims that 15-minute cities were “sinister” and Labour was “relaxed” about taxing meat.

She said: “As politicians we have a responsibility to make sure that we are talking about facts and being accurate about what we say.

“If you told me a few years ago that people would be getting vexed about a local planning framework in this respect and that it fed into a whole web of conspiracy theories, I just wouldn’t have believed you because on the face of it, it seems so dull and that’s the problem.

“I am sure and I know for certain that colleagues who are worried about excessive restrictions on motorists, whatever the label is, are absolutely not antisemites or conspiracy theorists but this is just a really good example of why we need to be so careful with our language.”

She added: “On this it really matters because I don’t believe for one second, I’ve never met one of my colleagues – with the exception of the one who is no longer a colleague – who I would worry would share antisemitic conspiracy theories, and sometimes colleagues need a reminder of their language and maybe where things are from.”

Ms Richards was alluding to former Conservative, now Reclaim, MP Andrew Bridgen, who was expelled from the Tories after comparing Covid vaccination programmes to the Holocaust.

During the Conservative Party Conference, Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, has been criticised by groups such as Greenpeace after suggesting in his conference speech on Monday that some councils wanted to “decide how often you go to the shops” in a “misuse” of the concept of 15-minute cities.

Sometimes colleagues need a reminder of their language

The concept, which suggests cities should be planned so residents are within 15-minutes’ walk of amenities, has provoked conspiracy theories suggesting it is part of a plan to impose radical restrictions on people’s movement.

Claire Coutinho, the Net Zero Secretary, has also been challenged over comments that Labour was “relaxed about taxing meat” despite the party having no such policy.

During Tuesday’s event, hosted by the Antisemitism Policy Trust as part of the conference fringe, Ms Richards said conspiracy theories had become “more of a problem” because “sometimes some of these views, or people alluding to these views, or people who have shared these views elsewhere are appearing on our TV, most notably on GB News, and I try not to watch too much of it.”

She added: “Really what it definitely comes down to is GB News, and any other platform, taking responsibility themselves and deciding what culture they want to have and who it is their audience is and what messages they want to send out.”

Ms Richards did not, however, criticise Conservative MPs for appearing on the channel and said there were “a lot of good people” on GB News.

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