Interviews

First-ever Reform UK politician at City Hall says climate change ‘not an emergency’

Alex Wilson was elected earlier this month as one of 25 London Assembly members, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Alex Wilson, Reform UK member of the London Assembly (credit Noah Vickers/Local Democracy Reporting Service)
Alex Wilson, Reform UK member of the London Assembly (credit Noah Vickers/Local Democracy Reporting Service)

Reform UK’s first ever London Assembly member has claimed there is “not a climate emergency”, while vowing to use his role at City Hall to fight for the capital’s motorists.

Alex Wilson, who was elected earlier this month as one of 25 assembly members, said that while climate change is happening, he does not believe it represents an “emergency”.

In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Wilson said that among other priorities, he wants to use his role to stand up for road transport in the city, which he believes has been “neglected” by Sadiq Khan as mayor.

His election as an assembly member comes after Reform received 5.9% of the vote on the ‘London-wide’ assembly ballot, through which seats are awarded using proportional representation.

It marks the first time that Reform – the ‘Farageist’ political movement formerly known as the Brexit Party – has won a seat in any of the UK’s devolved institutions.

It comes after Reform in March gained its first MP in the form of ex-Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson. He defected to the party after refusing to apologise for claiming on GB News that “Islamists” have “got control of” Khan and that the mayor had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

The remarks were condemned by Khan as “Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist”, with several senior Conservatives and the Muslim Council of Britain also among those lambasting the comments.

Wilson disagrees. He said: “Lee is very much a straight talker and might say things that come across slightly clumsily, but his instinct is sound, and we’re very pleased to have him on board with the party.”

He added: “It was perhaps clumsy in the way that he worded it, but he’s not a racist, none of us are. We are a party that is here to represent everybody. I’m here as a London-wide [assembly] member, I will represent everybody in London.”

Asked if he understood why the mayor thought the remarks were racist, he said: “Yeah, but the mayor thinks lots of things […] I’ve said what I’ve said about that.”

Wilson, who will receive a salary of £62,761 per year, has been given an office at City Hall and will also be hiring staff members to assist him in his work.

Assembly members have limited powers, and instead work to scrutinise the mayor by asking them difficult questions, investigating issues of importance to Londoners, and recommending policies after gathering expert evidence.

Wilson said that since his election, he has already completed his first piece of casework for a Londoner, who got in touch with him after “unfairly” receiving a Ulez fine. The assembly member successfully had the fine overturned by raising their situation with Transport for London.

“Transport was a huge issue during the campaign, and particularly from our perspective, we’re very pro-road transport,” he said.

“I think we’ve got to recognise that road transport is still very important for people’s livelihoods, people’s jobs, getting to school, the supermarket, all that kind of stuff – and that’s something that perhaps the administration here has neglected.”

Wilson is also focused on “making London safer again”, while making it a “better city to live, work and play”.


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He said: “I want to use this role to show that actually having a Reform member can be effective, can get issues raised, can get problems solved, can get things done and show that there’s a real benefit, when it comes to the general election, of people voting for Reform candidates up and down the country, not just here in London.”

Wilson was a Conservative member for 21 years, and even served as a cabinet member for the party on Redbridge Council in the early 2010s. But in 2020, he resigned from the party, as he disagreed with the government’s Covid lockdowns.

He said that while the virus was “very serious” for elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions – and that those people “absolutely” should have been shielded – the rest of the country needed to “move on”. He argued that the decision to impose blanket lockdowns, “shutting down the productive capacity of the economy”, was the “wrong policy” and has contributed towards the “rampant inflation” the UK is faced with today.

“Lockdown was what drove me out [of the Tories], but then since then, it’s high tax, it’s net zero, it’s not controlling the borders – it’s all these kinds of issues which make me not even want to think about going back,” he said.

In relation to global warming, Reform says in its ‘contract’ with voters on its website: “Climate change has happened for millions of years, before man-made CO2 emissions, and will always change. We are better to adapt to warming, rather than pretend we can stop it.”

While it is true that the climate has changed throughout the Earth’s history, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said natural causes “cannot explain” the particularly rapid warming seen in the last century.

Wilson said: “There is climate change, but there’s not a climate emergency, and that’s the fundamental difference. We’re not subscribed to the almost quasi-religious approach that pretty much all the other parties […] are subscribed to.”

He also claimed that the UK has “done more than any other” country in recent decades to reduce its emissions, and it is therefore “up to others to take their turn”.

The IPCC has warned that global warming is causing “increasingly irreversible losses” to the world’s ecosystems, threatening food security and causing deaths from intensifying heatwaves.

Asked about man-made global warming, the assembly member said: “The climate changes over time anyway. Yes, we probably are having an influence on it, but it’s supremely arrogant to think that we’re the only influence and that if we stop doing everything we’re doing, that it will automatically [improve].”

Asked what other factors were causing the planet to heat up, he said: “Well just, [in] general, the climate, the world, is an organic body in itself, and things change over time.

“We think that keeping the economy moving, keeping the lights on, keeping food on people’s tables – that’s of critical importance, and that’s why we have a different approach.”

A landmark 2,409-page report by the IPCC into the physical science of global warming in 2021 found that “multiple lines of evidence demonstrate that human drivers are the main cause of recent climate change”.

The hundreds of scientists who authored the report said that “natural processes alone cannot explain the strong rate of warming observed”, adding that “the observed rate can only be reproduced [in scientific modelling] when human influence is added to the [computer] simulations”.

Wilson will be joined on the Assembly over the next four years by eleven Labour members, eight Conservatives, three Greens and two Liberal Democrats.


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