Sir Keir Starmer has said the Just Stop Oil climate activists who have stopped traffic and thrown food at valuable paintings are “wrong and arrogant”.
The Labour leader criticised the protesters who have blocked traffic by gluing themselves to roads in recent days – after one protest saw emergency vehicles temporarily blocked.
“I think they’re wrong, I think their action is wrong, Sir Keir told LBC Radio. “My mum was very ill all of her life – she was in those ambulances when she was alive, and there will other families listening to this who will be in the same situation. It’s arrogant.”
He added: “I think it’s absolutely arrogant of those gluing themselves to the road to think they’re the only people who have got the answer – they haven’t got that answer.”
Sir Keir said he did not know how activists blocking roads “can look in eye the families who have got someone in the back of an ambulance”, adding: “They certainly wouldn’t be able to look me in the eye, if it was my mum, late mum now sadly, who was in that ambulance.”
The Labour leader insisted he was fully behind a move away from fossil fuels as part of a push towards renewable energy – saying he believed Britain can have clean power by 2030.
Mr Starmer also promised there would be no new oil and gas licences granted under a Labour government. “We accept there’s got to be a transition, so where there is oil and gas already being yielded that needs to continue as part of the transition, but no new sites, no new fields to be opened,” he said.
“We need to transition to renewables. We can do it.” he added. “We can double our onshore wind, we can triple our solar energy and we can quadruple our offshore wind –and the sooner we do that, the better. I do think that new nuclear, as well, and hydrogen are part of the equation.”
Videos shared online show both a fire engine and an ambulance on blue lights unable to get through traffic after dozens of Just Stop Oil protesters blocked three roads in West London earlier this week.
The latest roads protest saw 17 protesters Just Stop Oil activists arrested on Saturday after gluing themselves to a road in Islington. Campaigners also briefly blocked traffic at the iconic Abbey Road crossing, made famous by The Beatles.
Activists from the group threw mashed potatoes over a Claude Monet painting in a museum in Potsdam on Sunday. It followed a similar stunt at the National Gallery in London – where protesters chucked tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
Since their campaign began on 1 April, Just Stop Oil supporters have been arrested over 1,800 times, with seven supporters currently in prison and 13 in police custody.
The tactics used by Just Stop Oil have resembled those used by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group, who have glued themselves to roads and locked themselves onto the railings of key buildings.
Sir Keir also told LBC that he wanted to see longer sentences for any protesters gluing themselves to roads or key infrastructure.
He said Labour would push for harsher sentences for those “gluing themselves roads and motorways – because that’s where you are putting lives at risk”.
The former home secretary Suella Braverman – forced out during last’s week’s Tory turmoil – had unveiled plans for another crackdown on disruptive protests.
The new Public Order Bill is aimed at creating a new offence of interfering with infrastructure, airports, railways or oil refineries, with potential sentences of up to 12 months in prison.
Sir Keir Starmer also used his LBC interview to say he will not attend the World Cup in Qatar, and neither will any of his senior colleagues, over human rights concerns – even if England reach the final.
He also said “it’s a straight no from me” on the question of whether Britain would re-join the EU under Labour. “We do think that we should make Brexit work … I think we’ve got to make it work now.”