The brother of former London Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith suggested immigration is responsible for crowded London Underground trains at rush hour, prompting a barrage of angry reactions from commuters in the capital.
Ben Goldsmith, an environmentalist and investor, voiced his frustration at crowds on the Victoria line in a tweet on Tuesday, adding that a “sensible discussion” was needed about the number of people coming to the UK.
“It’s really easy to advocate for open borders and a swelling population in England when you’re on your arse at home in North London all day,” the 38-year-old wrote in the now-deleted post.
“The open borders people should be asked to take the appallingly crowded Victoria Line into Central London every morning for a week.”
A few hours later Goldsmith, a non-executive director at the government’s environment and rural affairs department, followed up his tweet, adding: “Unnecessarily grumpy tweet on a miserable commute to work. I’m pro immigration, of course.
“London is what it is because of centuries of immigration. But we definitely need to have a sensible discussion on numbers each year. That’s all.”
Goldsmith has since apologised “for the offence caused” to those who commented on his tweet.
His controversial comments drew a number of clever rebuttals from social media users, including Labour MP David Lammy, whose constituency of Tottenham partly lies on the Victoria line.
“Ben, it’s rush hour,” he wrote.
“Go to New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Moscow, Istanbul or Dhaka at nine in the morning and find me an empty carriage.
“London is very clear: we value immigration and celebrate diversity. If you want a quiet commute, try the Highlands.”
Food critic Jay Rayner wrote: “That would be Ben Goldsmith, son of a man born in Paris, from a Jewish family which, like mine, had to be allowed in to a country that had always welcomed immigrants for the value they brought to society.
“Plus rush hour has always looked like that. (I live on the Victoria Line)”.
Some Twitter users flooded his replies with images, including pictures of Wimbledon queues.
“Sure, it’s easy to laugh at Ben when you’re in North London which is one homogenous area, but the open borders people should be asked to queue for Wimbledon every year,” one Twitter user wrote.
“I’m pro-immigration, of course, but we need to have a sensible discussion on numbers. Breaking point?,” he added sarcastically.
Others decided to inject some historical accuracy into the discussion.
User Andrew Walsh took it all the way back to rush hour in the Victorian period, which still looks pretty full despite having a population a quarter of the capital’s current 8.1 million people.
Writer Hussein Kesvani responded: “Just wanted to say that it’s incredibly normal to take pictures of non-white people taking public transport to make this point”.