A Labour MP has been condemned after praising Extinction Rebellion for ‘excellent work’ after they blocked the printworks of most of Britain’s major newspapers.
Dawn Butler, the Member of Parliament for Brent, tweeted applause for the attack on the free press, after the blockade meant many were unable to receive their newspapers, including The Telegraph, this morning.
Some questioned whether she would be sanctioned by the Labour leadership for her tweet, which was hastily deleted after she received thousands of angry replies.
Conservative MP for Guildford Angela Richardson responded, tweeting: “Anyone who applauds this behaviour genuinely fails to understand the gravity of this action. It’s utterly unacceptable.”
Dawn Butler applauds the blocking of roads and the stopping of newspapers from being distributed.
So, @Keir_Starmer, do you agree with her????
(She’s now deleted her tweet, but here it is for all to see) pic.twitter.com/MwtTIDoUIE
— Michael Fabricant 🇬🇧 (@Mike_Fabricant) September 5, 2020
Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield, said: “Dawn Butler applauds the blocking of roads and the stopping of newspapers from being distributed. So, Keir Starmer,, do you agree with her???? (She’s now deleted her tweet, but here it is for all to see)”.
Health minister Nadine Dorries added: “They prevented a blue light ambulance carrying an emergency from reaching St Thomas A+E because ER blocked the bridge and access. Are you serious?”
Labour did not comment on her tweet, but sources said the order to delete it did not come from Keir Starmer.
The shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said the party disagreed with the action taken by the climate change activists.
She said: “A free press is vital for our democracy. People have the right to read the newspapers they want. Stopping them from being distributed and printers from doing their jobs is wrong.”
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry also condemned the action. She told Times Radio: “This is very worrying and I don’t really know what it is that is expected to be achieved and I know that for many older listeners it’s very much part of their daily life, getting their paper delivered, and I think it’s just wrong”.
Last night, more than 100 protesters used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads outside the printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool.
The presses print the Rupert Murdoch-owned News UK’s titles including The Sun, The Times, The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, branded the Extinction Rebellion demonstration as an “attack on democracy”.
She said: “This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion.
“This attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable.”
Under a banner reading ‘Free the truth”, XR tweeted that it was using the disruption to expose the newspapers’ “failure to report on the climate & ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of truth to suit their own agendas”.