A Labour MP has mocked anti-Silvertown Tunnel campaigners as being “all white” after they tried to draw attention to a website’s coverage of its impact on communities in east London.
Neil Coyle, the MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark, criticised the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition when the group tweeted a link to an article about the new road.
“An all white campaign group (going by their own photo) says a tunnel is racist,” Coyle tweeted yesterday morning. “Once again Twitter excels,” he added, with a “facepalm” emoji.
However, the piece the group linked to – which described the tunnel as “a climate disaster for Newham’s communities of colour” – came from gal-dem, a magazine created by women and non-binary people of colour.
“Did you actually read the article?”, the campaigners responded.
The journalist who wrote the piece, Kimi Chaddah, offered to discuss the piece with Coyle, but he did not respond.
Last night, one of the groups featured in Chaddah’s story, the youth activists Choked Up, ridiculed Coyle.
“It’s not just white groups campaigning to #StopSilvertownTunnel! We’re campaigning against it and we’re literally black and brown teens,” they tweeted.
Coyle’s criticism of the anti-tunnel campaign comes despite his own local Labour council, Southwark, being opposed to the £2 billion road scheme, which will link the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks and will have dedicated lanes for HGVs and buses.
While mayor Sadiq Khan insists the road will “virtually eliminate” congestion at the Silvertown Tunnel, opponents – including Southwark Council – fear it will lead to more traffic and create new bottlenecks.
In particular, Southwark fears that tolling both the Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels will cause some drivers to divert to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which will remain free to use.
Campaigners also say that the tunnel will make it impossible for London to meet its commitments under the Paris climate change agreement.
Lewisham, Hackney and Newham councils also oppose the scheme, while London Labour delegates voted to condemn the plans during the summer.
Coyle’s colleague on the Labour benches, Greenwich & Woolwich MP and shadow climate change minister Matt Pennycook, also opposes the project, as does Lyn Brown, the West Ham MP, and Abena Oppong-Asare, the Erith & Thamesmead MP.
His outburst came as the University of Greenwich prepared to host an academic seminar into the effects of the tunnel, which is due to open in 2025.
The conference – Cop26: Is the Silvertown tunnel compatible with London’s climate agenda? – will take place in person and online tomorrow at 5.30pm, with free tickets still available.
Ozlem Onaran, a Greenwich University professor of economics, said: “We are at a crucial turning point in terms of climate change and we need urgent large scale investment in non-motor public transport.
“The panel on the Silvertown Tunnel project brings together climate and transport researchers, local communities and campaigners to assess concerns regarding the project’s compatibility with London’s own climate targets”.
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