mayoral candidate today sparked a backlash after saying that Britons had a “sovereign choice” to decide whether or not to get vaccinated.
He appeared to cast doubt on the UK’s 125,000 death toll from the pandemic, claiming some doctors were seeking to add non-Covid deaths –including that of his mother last year – to the official tally to support the “Government’s fear-based narrative”.
Mr Fox, who leads the newly-formed Reclaim party, said in an interview with the Evening Standard: “I think vaccine is the same as voting. It’s up to each private individual to decide what they wish to do. I think that should be a sovereign choice.
“I would never tell someone to go and get a vaccine and I would never tell someone not to. It’s not my business. It’s their life.
“We have turned Covid into a ‘goody’ v ‘baddy’ situation and that is divisive. Let’s be having a conversation about whether lockdowns actually work… why, with the most severe restrictions in Europe and the longest lockdowns, we have some of the highest death figures.”
He added: “I’m very, very nervous about vaccine passports. I can see the desire for them in order to get businesses and travel moving. ButI think what you put in your body should be a sovereign decision for yourself.”
Asked if there was an obligation to other Londoners to take the vaccine to reduce the risk of transmission, he said: “It depends whether you feel you have an obligation to do anything. Do you have an obligation to have a flu jab every year?”
Hours earlier, London’s chief nurse Martin Machray told a Westminster council webinar that it was vital to ensure the vaccine, which has been given to 2.4m Londoners so far, was seen as a “force for good, which it is”.
Luisa Porritt, the Lib-Dem mayoral candidate, criticised Mr Fox’s remarks, saying: “Playing down the severity of the virus is an insult to all those Londoners who have lost loved ones and sacrificed so much by following the rules over the last year.
“His Covid conspiracy talk at a time when the city has just started to overcome vaccine hesitancy issues is outright dangerous.
“Laurence Fox will soon find out about the ‘sovereign choice’ of Londoners when he’s resolutely rejected at the ballot box in May.”
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Dr Onkar Sahota, a GP and Labour chair of the London Assembly health committee, said: “A lot of these comments are fundamentally misleading.
“The NHS and the Government have been clear that everyone has a choice in whether to take the vaccine when it is offered.
“But what is also clear is that the vaccine is safe and effective, and one of the best ways we can protect each other and ensure our cautious exit out of lockdown stays on track.”
“The Government were very quick to take our liberties away and they are being very reluctant to hand them back,” he said.
“Someone of my age – in terms of people with no underlying health conditions under 50 that have died from Covid, it’s less than 500nationally in a population of more than 70 million. We are not discussing Ebola here.”
The Evening Standard was unable to substantiate this claim. Office for National Statistics data states that 20.7 per cent of people under 65 who died with Covid last year had no pre-existing health condition.
ONS data also shows there have been 1,431 Covid deaths of people under 45 registered by February 26 this year, with any underlying condition unknown.
He said the consequences of lockdown, from thousands of cancer deaths to the cost of Government support, were “being forgotten by the prosecco Zoom class”.
He said Mr Khan had failed on crime, transport and housing, and vowed to liven up the election campaign and drive across the city in a “battle bus”.
However he said he would not be knocking on doors as he wouldn’t want anyone to knock on his own door.
Mr Fox, who lives in Stockwell, said his campaign was being funded solely by the millionaire financier Jeremy Hosking, a former Tory donor who has also funded the Brexit party. Candidates can raise a maximum of about £420,000.
“The Conservative candidate [Shaun Bailey] should stand down, because he has got nowhere and is going nowhere,” Mr Fox said. “I am literally the only option.”
He described the Park Lane cycle lane as “public virtue signal” and added: “Why do we hate the motorist so much?”
He said he was opposed to low-traffic neighbourhoods, saying a five minute drive to his father’s house had become a 30-minute journey.
“They drive up with a forklift truck and drop a crappy flower pot and then start charging people £130 for [breaching the rules]. It’s bollocks. It’s not democratic.”
He said footballers should stop “taking the knee”. He said: “I don’t know why they got down on the knee in the first place. I think it’s an embarrassment. The only time you take the knee is to the Queen or when you propose to someone.”
Asked why he was promising voters something beyond the mayor’s powers – the lifting of the lockdown in the capital – Mr Fox said a huge vote for him would be impossible for the Government to ignore.
He said of Mr Khan: “He is trying to build a city in his own image, not in the image of the occupants of this city, and constant woke proselytising about what he feels London should look at.
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“Politics turns on a dime…. But it’s certainly his to lose. London is the cathedral to politically correct wokery. It’s not like I’m standing in a place that is going to be easy to win. But there is a significant constituency of Londoners who think like me. I want to give them a voice.”
His mother died during the first wave of the pandemic. “I was absolutely by her side, holding her hand,” he said. “I walk with my dad every day and I mix households, absolutely 100 per cent. You will not take that freedom away from me. It’s not yours to take.
“This is the mistake we made in this country – we have given our freedom away. We should all have been anti-lockdown from day one, but the debate was stifled and shut up by Government.”
Asked if his mother’s death was Covid-related, he said: “No it wasn’t. Did they try to make it a Covid death? Absolutely. You know who tried to do that: the doctors. [They asked:] Can we test her for Covid?
“Anything we can tick as a Covid death in this country that fulfils the… Government’s fear-based narrative is what they will do.”
“I did watch my old Question Time and I thought: ‘I was the one who called this way in advance.’”
A spokeswoman for Mr Khan said: “Sadiq will not engage with politicians on the extreme far Right.”