Anti-LTN independent candidates deny creating new political party
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Two "independent" by-election candidates have denied they are forming a party despite sharing a newly launched platform.
Martyn Perks, who is standing for council in the Bunhill ward, Islington, and Niall Crowley who is standing in Hoxton East and Shoreditch, Hackney, have collaborated on London Democrats – a "platform for non-partisan local politics".
Mr Crowley said they are running "grassroots, democratic campaigns" off the back of resistance to low-traffic neighbourhoods, and they have both denied the platform is a new party.
The pair have long links to a network of libertarian organisations – sometimes referred to as the "LM Network".
Both candidates have written for the libertarian magazine Spiked. A Guardian and Desmogged investigation revealed Spiked received $300,000 in donations in three years through its US operation from the from the Koch Foundation – founded by the US oil billionaire brothers, who have been at the heart of climate change denial in the US.
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Mr Perks told the Gazette he is “proud” of his links with Spiked.
They have also been involved with the "free speech" Battle of Ideas (BoI) events, which have given a platform to climate change deniers and hosted sessions such as "Is white privilege real?" and "Is modern slavery a myth?".
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The BoI is run by former Brexit Party MEP Claire Fox, who last week gave both Mr Perks and Mr Crowley her backing in a video filmed outside the Houses of Parliament.
Mr Crowley worked as a co-ordinator at the youth charity WorldWRITE. A Gazette investigation in 2019 revealed the Hackney-based charity had been promoting apparently anti-feminist, anti-environmental and pro-Brexit agendas among its young recruits. Its director was filmed bragging that her organisation had campaigned for Brexit despite a statement from the Charity Commission saying this was not allowed.
When asked about his political associations with libertarian organisations, he said: “Are you saying I'm part of a conspiratorial network?
"We happen to be friends and so on, and share a history.
“I spoke with Lawrence Fox on Saturday. What's wrong with that?"
Mr Crowley said his only "connection"' was to the Horrendous Hackney Road Closures anti-LTN group.
He said he registered the domain name "London Democrats" in 2019, when he was "playing around with the idea of a spoof underground group".
"I had revived the web domain last week, to use for promoting a discussion I'm doing with a fellow independent candidate and one or two others," he added.
Explaining why the London Democrats platform has been set up, Mr Perks said: “A lot of people are afraid to express their views publicly because the Labour party has castigated working class voters time and again for being racist unthinking voters... I think they have trouble standing up in public for fear of being vilified sometimes.
“Our platform is trying to overcome those problems to start to build a forum where people can have the confidence to talk about their ideas more freely."