Tory Minister accused of ‘deliberately misleading the public’ with conspiracy theory claims 

'This is a new low for the Conservative party'

Maria Caulfield

Tory Health Minister Maria Caulfield has been slammed for spreading false claims linked to ‘15-minute cities’ as she faces calls to report herself to the ministerial ethics adviser. 

Leaflets from the MP for Lewes stated a misleading claim that some councils in England would be introducing a road toll system under the so-called ‘15-minute cities’ plan. It came days before the leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt introduced a conspiracy theories guide for MPs, which included ’15-minute cities’.

Caulfield said that the two largest parties on the district council, the Lib Dems and Greens, were planning to introduce a scheme where people would have to pay a congestion charge to drive more than 15-minutes from their home, something both parties have said is completely untrue. 

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Daisy Cooper said the leaflets were “dishonest” and accused the minister of “deliberately misleading the public to save her own job”.

She called for Caulfield to apologise to the local people and report her leaflet to the ethics adviser, stating, “that would be the honest and decent thing to do.”

“After years of Conservative sleaze and scandal, the public desperately wants a return to integrity in politics, yet Maria Caulfield is spreading baseless claims,” said Cooper. “This is a new low for the Conservative party.”

During an interview on Politics South East, Caulfied defended her claims despite being told by the reporter that it was misleading. Journalist and activist George Monbiot said her comments were “really disturbing” as he accused the minister of spreading “a blatant conspiracy fiction”. 

Monbiot wrote on X: “When ministers spread potent fictions like this, and refuse to back down when shown they are wrong, you can see what remains of standards in public life collapsing in real time.”

He also called for Caulfield to issue a public correction and to apologise. 

She’s not the first Tory MP to spread false ’15-minute city’ theories. During the Conservative Party conference in 2023 Transport Secretary Mark Harper suggested local councils were involved in a ‘sinister’ misuse of so-called ‘15-minute cities’ to ‘police’ people’s movement. 

It comes as MPs have now been given a new guide to conspiracy theories that includes ‘15 minute cities’, which the document defines as a claim that urban design principles of 15-minute cities is a means of controlling movement and personal freedoms.

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

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