Lib Dem Activists Aren’t Happy A Millionaire Who Described A Council Tower Block As “Hell On Earth” Is One Of The Party's Mayoral Candidates
The Lib Dems have shortlisted a millionaire businesswoman as a London mayoral candidate, with party activists expressing their concern over a string of controversial remarks she has made in the media.
Health food entrepreneur Geeta Sidhu-Robb, who was confirmed as a candidate on Tuesday, made headlines in 2019 after appearing on a reality TV show where she described a south London council tower block as “hell on earth” and balked at drinking tap water.
Party members will be asked to choose between Ms Sidhu-Robb and Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt during the month long contest, with the winner due to be announced on 13 October.
In October last year, Ms Sidhu-Robb appeared on Channel 5 reality show Rich House Poor House, where she swapped her £7m London home for a two-bedroom flat in a community housing project in Lambeth.
During her appearance, the former vice chair of the People's Vote campaign said staying at the top of the council tower block was her “idea of hell on earth”, and described leaving the “safety” of Chelsea as an “edgy” experience.
The Lib Dem hopeful was also filmed alongside a friend struggling to use a can opener and saying she did not want to drink tap water.
One London Lib Dem activist said: "I am astonished Ms Sidhu-Robb has been shortlisted as our potential candidate. An out-of-touch millionaire who flogs juice detoxes to celebrities is not someone we should be asked to consider.
"We want to be back out there talking about the issues that matter to Londoners, but instead we have shot ourselves in the foot with this baffling selection. "
But Ms Sidhu-Robb said the producers had edited her comments “for the purpose of showmanship” and claimed her remarks had been “out of context”.
“While they were filming me for 5 days, I have naturally expressed everything from joy, happiness, gratitude, difficulties, anxiety and frustration as anyone would,” she told PoliticsHome.
“This particular comment was in reference to the extreme heat wave we were in in the middle of last summer. This kind of misunderstanding is easy when you pick out a few comments and package my week into an hour’s worth of programming. Naturally, I am saddened to be portrayed out of context.”
She added: “Participating in the programme drew me back not only to my past experiences but the current realities of life for fellow Londoners and perhaps was the starting gun for my political run as I wanted to change things, this time for others.”
Meanwhile, speaking earlier this year to an American nutrition firm, Ms Sidhu-Robb also claimed that “everybody English” had left London during the Coronavirus pandemic because “they all have homes in the country”.
“I live in London, which is the capital, it is like living in Manhattan or somewhere like dead center,” she said.
“If you look out the window, everybody English has gone because they all have homes in the country.
“There is nobody English left here, it is foreigners, it is just us people..”
Speaking to PoliticsHome, Ms Sidhu-Robb said she was “referring to the fact that most English people have family homes that they were able to go to during Covid.”
She added: “As immigrants we don't usually have parents, grandparents and other family with homes outside of London.”
In a statement announcing her candidacy, the former corporate lawyer said she was standing to "champion those core values of fighting poverty, standing up to discrimination and empowering local communities to build a fairer society".
But her selection came under further fire after party activists highlighted previous comments in which she claimed her son had suffered an allergic reaction to vaccines.
In a new deleted interview with The Glass Magazine, Ms Sidhu-Robb said: “He was allergic to his vaccinations, and apparently, that’s just not real - according to the doctors, but it is.
“It is because I saw it in my child. I saw after the first vaccination he had a small patch of eczema on his face. After the second vaccination, he had two patches of eczema on his face. After the third vaccination, he was covered in eczema.
She added: “You’re not allowed to talk about anything pharmaceutical because to oppose it is apparently to believe in hearsay, but that’s wrong.”
Responding to the remarks, former Lib Dem PPC Luke Taylor said he was "absolutely appalled" she had been shortlisted given her "ridiculous and dangerous views on vaccinations and modern medicine".
Meanwhile, a former vice chair of the London Liberal Democrats told PoliticsHome: “Liberal Democrat members much prefer a contest to a coronation and I’m sure thousands will take part in this one over the next month.
“However it is very clear that a lot of members have concerns about Geeta Sidhu-Robb’s views on alternative medicine, not least in the middle of a global pandemic.
They added: “There are questions being asked about how she got through the shortlisting process, but now she has lets await the verdict of London’s Liberal Democrat members.”
But in a video posted on Friday, Ms Sidhu-Robb denied she was an “anti-vaxxer”, saying people were “putting words in my mouth”.
She added: “They picked a whole story about me being anti-vaccination when in writing I say that my son was very, very ill after his vaccinations. That happens.
“My daughters were vaccinated because I think vaccinations are important.
“I don’t think having those two things happen to me makes me an anti-vaxxer, and I refuse to accept that label. It is just not who I am.”
And in a further response to PoliticsHome she hit out at the “unfounded allegations”, saying she believes “fully” in the benefits of vaccines.
“Firstly, let me say categorically and without any hesitation, I know clearly and believe fully in the benefits of vaccination and vaccination programmes,” she said.
She added: “Though it is rare, my son had an adverse reaction and it was simply the case that this experience started my journey in looking at health, wellness and how to use diet to boost the immune system.
“All of my children were vaccinated over a decade ago and certainly in today's climate I take incredibly seriously these unfounded allegations.
“As I have said on Twitter, in my vlog and again now, vaccinations are important and protect all of us, I am categorically not an anti-vaxxer.”
A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said: “The Internal Selection Committee examines all applicants, including questioning on past appearances in the media.
“The Liberal Democrats trust the science on vaccinations. They are critical for protecting ourselves and also the wider community, this point is not up for debate.”