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Boris Johnson blasted for 'mobilising ethno-nationalism' at Islington full council meeting

PUBLISHED: 13:42 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:55 27 September 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/PA.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson was blasted for "mobilising ethno-nationalism" at a full council meeting where Brexit and barbecues topped the agenda last night.

Islington Town Hall.Picture:Ken MearsIslington Town Hall.Picture:Ken Mears

Boris Johnson was blasted for "mobilising ethno-nationalism" at a full council meeting where Brexit and barbecues topped the agenda last night.

The Labour members and Islington's sole and Green opposition councillor Caroline Russell disagreed on barbecue policy and which way around an election and referendum should happen once a "no deal" Brexit is off the table, with Corbyn's party getting its way on both.

But there was also a show of unity as councillors pointedly quoted the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, saying they had "more in common" than divides them, before condemning PM Boris Johnson for using inflammatory language.

Cllr Russell (Green, Highbury East), who tabled an unsuccessful amendment calling for the council to back another referendum before an election, said it's "frankly really terrifying what happening to our country".

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, speaking at a Fair Futures Commission meeting at Arts and Media School Islington. Photo by Em Fitzgerald Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, speaking at a Fair Futures Commission meeting at Arts and Media School Islington. Photo by Em Fitzgerald

She added: "Prime Minister Johnson's refusal to apologise for breaking the law when he shut down parliament and his response of 'humbug' to the emotional pleas from women MPs to stop using inflammatory language were utterly shocking.

"The Green Party completely agrees that a 'no deal' Brexit would be a catastrophe for our country and that people here in Islington would see extreme economic hardship, while the Tory hedge funders and disaster capitalists avoid new tax scrutiny from the EU and clean up by betting against the pound."

She said Labour and the Tories are split over Brexit allegiances and an election "will not get us out of the immediate crisis we face and risks deepening the divisions in our communities".

Speaking against the referendum, Cllr Sue Lukes (Lab, Highbury East) said rerunning the vote now would further alienate Leave voters and that the government can't be trusted to oversee a fair campaign.

Smoky barbecues in Highbury Fields last year.Smoky barbecues in Highbury Fields last year.

As a Jewish woman, she says the emboldened far-right is making England feel less safe.

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Cllr Lukes said: "Ethno-nationalism is being mobilised against us in pursuit of no deal Brexit and keeping this disgraceful government in power."

Cllr leader Richard Watts said: "It's quite clear a 'no deal' Brexit will be a catastrophe for Islington and indeed the whole country. Boris Johnson plays politics with people's livelihoods and the provision of essential services."

Mr Johnson has faced calls to apologise for saying the best way to honour Ms Cox - a Remain-supporting MP who was shot and stabbed to death by a far-right Brexiteer days before the 2016 referendum - is to "get Brexit done".

He has also called cross-party legislation that made a no deal exit from the EU illegal the "surrender bill".

Cllr Watts added: "I used to work with Jo Cox and to use her to argue for government policy is utterly bloody disgraceful.

"We know what happens when far-right rhetoric ramps up fears - Darren Osborne drove a van into Muslim worshipers in our very own borough."

Councillors passed a motion in support of a barbecue bylaw for Highbury Fields. This follows a consultation and will give officers extra enforcement powers to stop people barbecuing outside the designated patch of grass on the west of the field, with a 9pm curfew. But it stopped short of banning disposal barbecues, like clean air campaigner Cllr Russell wants.

She said: "One hot days the fields should be an oasis, but the barbecues come out. The fields fill up with smoke and people with asthma are forced to stay away. Dog walkers worry about their dogs finding dangerous chicken bones."

She said a "significant number" of people oppose barbecues and Islington Council is "an outlier" in allowing them in every park, unlike other Labour administrations like Camden and Hackney.

Cllr Russell asked why "in a climate emergency, we are encouraging people to use huge quantities of waste that cost £95,000 to dispose of each year". She said £90,000 per annum also goes on a Reassurance team, £16,274 goes on park patrol and £7,789 is spent on barbecue bins and equipment."

Islington's environment chief Cllr Claudia Webbe said: "We defend our barbecue policy: the right to enable residents to have access to having a barbecue to enjoy a family gathering, particularly because many of our residents do not have any space of facilities in their own home to have a barbecue because we have inequality and poverty."

The byelaw has provisional approval from communities secretary Robert Jenrick, who's now expected to rubber stamp it.

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