WATCH ‘Con’ councillor left Green group over ‘insulting’ Covid-19 views, leader reveals
PUBLISHED: 19:10 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 19:19 24 June 2020
A city councillor who sparked outrage by branding Covid-19 the “biggest con in history” left his former group due to divisions over his “incredibly insulting attitude”, it has been revealed.
Independent councillor and former Green Party member Nigel Utton was blasted by colleagues after he described Covid-19 as a “little virus” which is “the biggest con in history” during a council meeting on Tuesday (June 23).
A Labour member slammed Mr Utton’s comments as “dangerous” while a resident of his ward with relatives suffering from the virus told of her shock at his remarks.
Three councillors confirmed they had made official complaints following the meeting.
And Green Party group leader Sandra Bogelein said Mr Utton’s “incredibly insulting attitude” was the reason he was no longer a party member, as she called for him to make a full apology.
Mr Utton, an osteopath and former headteacher, said the complaints about him expressing his views were “appalling” and said: “I have a right to have a different view.”
Ms Bogelein said Mr Utton left the group by a mutual decision ahead of the new council term in May when “it became clear through the pandemic that there are very clear differences between his views and our values”.
She said: “Cllr Utton’s comments regarding coronavirus are shameful and wrong and have rightly been condemned by all other councillors. We believe his attitude is incredibly insulting, particularly to those of us who have been directly affected by the virus or who know someone who has been, to say nothing of the key workers who have been putting their lives on the line to battle it.
“It is for this reason that he is no longer a Green Party member.”
She said he had contravened the duty of elected officials to keep people safe and added: “Green Party councillors have submitted a formal complaint about Cllr Utton’s conduct and we expect a full apology from him.”
While Karen Davis, Labour member for Town Close ward, confirmed she had also made an official complaint to the council’s monitoring officer and said she was “horrified” at his remarks.
“I believe it’s dangerous when we’re trying to get people to behave responsibly,” she said.
And Lex Thomson, who lives in Thorpe Hamlet ward, said she had written to Mr Utton to complain directly, and received a response “linking me to a YouTube conspiracy theory video”.
She said: “I’m filing an official complaint. Despite me as a constituent with three family members diagnosed - and one with ongoing complications - he seems amazed that I could take offence at his comments.”
While Labour county councillor Emma Corlett said she had also made an official complaint and said: “We have a responsibility to be truthful. What he said about hospitals being closed to anything other than Covid was not true”.
Mr Utton said he had only received three emails about his comments at the meetings, only one of which was negative and from someone who had “lost someone to coronavirus”.
He said: “Well, so have I. I lost a good friend to Covid-19 but that’s not the point.”
When asked if he stood by his comments, the councillor said: “Absolutely I do. To shut down the whole world on something little more than a bad flu season?”
He claimed coronavirus was “dangerous to people over 80” and said government policy should focus on shielding the vulnerable.
Medical research has found younger people are susceptible to complications, with Public Health England warning young women aged 20-29 are more than twice as likely to develop Covid symptoms than their male peers.
But he did not apologise for his comments and added: “I’m sad people are upset and I’m sad they have lost people. [But] people have lost people to smoking, car accidents and to cancer.”
Mr Utton’s Twitter account has shared videos including one titled ‘The Doctor That Doesn’t Believe in Covid-19’ and another claiming 97pc of coronavirus vaccine recipients would become infertile.
But he refuted the suggestion the views he shared at the meeting were conspiracies and said: “What a ridiculous thing to say.
“Why is it a conspiracy theory to question something?”
He added he had a “first-class masters degree” in osteopathy from Swansea University, and said he had offered his services to the NHS and had been refused. In an interview last year, he said he was unable to afford to study medicine.
When asked, Mr Utton said he left the Green Party group “so I could express my views”.
The city council said it had not yet received any complaints on its system but “that could change”.
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