Was London mayor Sadiq Khan trolling Brexit fans with a blatantly pro-EU fireworks display?
- A furious UK Conservative MP said the New Year’s message was a ‘betrayal of democracy’
If the festive season can sometimes involve trolling relatives with different political views, London mayor Sadiq Khan has arguably taken the tradition to a grand scale with a New Year’s Eve fireworks display which has prompted apoplexy among Brexiters with its apparently pro-EU message.
The mayor hailed the event, in which the London Eye was lit up in the blue-and-yellow colours of the EU flag, as part of a wider message to Europe that the capital would stay “open-minded” and “outward looking” after Brexit.
As the fireworks went off along the Thames, the words “London is open” were said in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Romanian and Spanish just after midnight.
The phrase is often used by the Labour mayor, who opposes Brexit and has called for a second referendum. The event also featured musical performances by European artists.
“We, in my opinion, are one of the greatest cities in the world; one of the reasons we are one of the greatest cities in the world is because of the contribution made by Europeans,” Khan said before the display.
“I think diversity is a strength and I think what tonight is about is celebrating that diversity.”
He said the display was about “showing the world, while they’re watching us, that we’re going to carry on being open-minded, outward looking, pluralistic”.
In a tweet after the display, the mayor said: “Our one million EU citizens are Londoners, they make a huge contribution, and no matter the outcome of Brexit, they will always be welcome.”
While the sentiment might be popular with many Londoners, given the capital voted strongly in favour of staying in the EU, the display brought condemnation from the more militant Brexiters.
Tonight's spectacular #LondonNYE fireworks showed that whatever the outcome of Brexit - #LondonIsOpen - to business, to talent, to ideas, to creativity - and why London really is the greatest city in the world.
To everyone in London and across the globe: #HappyNewYear pic.twitter.com/vjGBANrGBL
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) January 1, 2019
The Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said the message had been “a betrayal of democracy”, telling The Sun: “It’s low, it’s very low to politicise what is an international public event.”
Roger Helmer, a former Conservative MEP who defected to the vehemently anti-EU party UKIP, tweeted: “While the UK is locked in critical negotiations with Brussels, Sadiq Khan chooses to display the other side’s flag on the London Eye. Would he have shown an Argentinian flag during the Falklands War?”
The annual display was paid for by £2.3 million (US$2.9 million) in funding from the Greater London Authority, offset by revenue from 100,000 ticket sales.