Search

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

City councillor Nigel Utton who sparked outrage by branding Covid-19 the biggest con in history. Picture: Ruth Lawes

City councillor Nigel Utton who sparked outrage by branding Covid-19 the biggest con in history. Picture: Ruth Lawes

Archant

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.

Lex Thomson said she had complained about Nigel Utton's comments. Photo: Lex ThomsonLex Thomson said she had complained about Nigel Utton's comments. Photo: Lex Thomson

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.

READ MORE: Anger as Norwich city councillor brands Covid-19 ‘biggest con in history’

Karen Davis, Norwich Labour councillor, said Nigel Utton's comment's were Karen Davis, Norwich Labour councillor, said Nigel Utton's comment's were "dangerous". Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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.

Nigel Utton quit his former life and now works as an osteopath and is an independent councillor. Picture: Ruth LawesNigel Utton quit his former life and now works as an osteopath and is an independent councillor. Picture: Ruth Lawes

“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.

Norwich city councillor and Green Party group leader Sandra Bogelein. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNorwich city councillor and Green Party group leader Sandra Bogelein. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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.”

READ MORE: How head teacher quit, came out as gay, turned Green and moved to Norwich

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”.

Norfolk County Councillor, Emma Corlett. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNorfolk County Councillor, Emma Corlett. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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”.

READ MORE: Norwich family among relatives of coronavirus victims demanding urgent inquiry


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press