Senior London Tories were on Thursday accused of “condoning criminality” after it was revealed they help run social media groups that have celebrated the destruction of Ulez cameras and shared conspiracy theories about Sadiq Khan.
New Uxbridge MP Steve Tuckwell was among the Conservatives, who include councillors and council leaders, administrating Facebook groups protesting the expansion of the clean air zone on August 29.
The pages, which have been set up for several London boroughs, include comments calling for “more people” to get involved in damaging the cameras needed to police the zone, as well as tips on how to get away with cutting wires and updates on the criminal damage.
Conspiracy posts have also linked Mr Khan to al-Qaeda terrorists and his policy to clean up the capital’s toxic air to Muslims.
After the Standard contacted London Conservative Party headquarters, Mr Tuckwell was removed as an admin for the ‘Hillingdon says no to Ulez expansion’ group and some of the posts taken down. His office has declined to comment.
The Standard reported in May that Paul Osborn, the leader of Harrow council, was under fire for helping run the Harrow says no to Ulez expansion Facebook group where members celebrated the destruction of cameras.
Councillors who are moderators in the group later said posts encouraging criminal damage “cannot and will not be allowed” and they were taken down.
Putney MP Fleur Anderson said: “From Tory MPs running online forums in which criminal behaviour is being encouraged to Tory councillors ignoring rampant Islamophobia and threats of violence towards our Mayor.
“Reports this year that the leader of Harrow council was facilitating these groups was clearly just the first incidence of a pattern of questionable behaviour.
“Rishi Sunak must get a grip on his party as its members are using opposition to the expansion of the Ulez as an excuse to indulge all kinds of appalling behaviour.”
Ulez is due to be expanded to the London boundary next week and will see the drivers of older, more polluting vehicles face a £12.50 daily charge.
Mr Khan has defended his legal right to introduce the policy after ministers reportedly began exploring ways to block the Labour Mayor’s plan.
Government lawyers are said to have rejected intervening, warning that any challenge would not stand up in court because of City Hall’s devolved powers.
The high court last month dismissed a legal challenge by five Conservative-led councils against the expansion with a judge finding that the legal basis to expand the Ulez was in line with previous decisions on road charges within the capital.
But protesters have argued that the lowest paid workers will be hit hardest by the policy.
The Met said it had received reports of approximately 164 cameras being stolen, 185 cables being damaged, and 38 cameras being obscured.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “Our party does not encourage vandalism. Groups are moderated in line with the guidelines of the platform, and posts that go against those guidelines are removed. Members of the Conservative Party are welcome to engage in groups that seek to oppose the unfair and regressive tax that is the Ulez.”