A Conservative Parliamentary candidate fighting for a key Wirral seat has defended sharing social media posts promoting conspiracy theories.
West Kirby Conservative councillor Jennifer Johnson is standing to be her party’s candidate for the Wirral West seat, which the Conservatives are trying to win back at the next General Election.
Cllr Johnson, who currently serves as the chair of Wirral Council’s audit and risk management committee is also an associate professor in Human Resource Management and Director of Studies for masters in healthcare leadership at the University of Liverpool’s Management School.
Prior to announcing her candidacy, Cllr Johnson deleted her Twitter/X account. She says she did this to focus on new social media accounts set up to support her campaign.
However, the LDRS has been made aware of shares and retweets made on her now deleted account that appear to be related to some well known conspiracy theories.
The account was linked to her role as a councillor but Cllr Johnson argued that as an academic, she is “trained to consider that counter narrative” and while she may not agree with every retweet she made, some content “is worthy of exploration”.
She insists she is not a conspiracy theorist and said her shares and retweets were not endorsements of the content in question, arguing they represent a professional, academic stance, and not a political one.
On 25 June and 31 July, 2023 respectively, Cllr Johnson retweeted a tweet claiming to reveal “the truth about 15-minute cities slavery” and a tweet by controversial MP Andrew Bridgen opposing the neighbourhood planning concept called 15 minutes cities.
The 15 minute city concept promotes the idea of having amenities and facilities in walking distance for people in communities but has become a target for conspiracy theorists who have pushed the idea it represents a sinister plot to control people and trap them in their homes.
Andrew Bridgen had also suspended and later expelled from the Conservative Party in April over a tweet about the Covid-19 vaccine, calling it “the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust”.
In response to another tweet about 20 minute cities, another version of “15-minute cities” which labelled the idea “almost a conspiracy,” Cllr Johnson said, “Lockstep. So many identical steps being taken simultaneously in many nations. Most odd…”
Asked about the retweets of Mr Bridgen, Cllr Johnson said, “Very clearly my retweets did not mean I agreed with everything that person stood for and I would certainly say that about any of that situation and any of those retweets.”
She added, “I’m not endorsing anybody by the fact I’m retweeting them. I’ve made that clear throughout but sometimes I’m interested and certainly academically. My academic training is to look at the narrative and the counter narrative.”
Cllr Johnson said there were sustainable benefits to 15 minute city neighbourhoods but added, “We need to be very cautious to be proportionate to our response in alignment with obviously caring about our world and environment as well.”
Asked whether she thought the idea was about government control, Cllr Johnson said, “If people are only allowed to travel and live within a 15 minute radius of home, then that is about control isn’t it?”
According to fact checker Full Fact, there are no plans within the 15-minute city concept to restrict people’s movement or only allow them to travel 15 minutes from their home in the UK. Asked whether controlling people’s movements was a genuine proposal in the UK, Cllr Johnson said, “I would need to look into that in more detail. I would need to research it more, I would need to look into it in more detail to find out more.”
On 2 July, Cllr Johnson retweeted another comment that said in France “the people will fall…straight into the arms of state control” referring to digital ID, movement restrictions, social media censorship, and internet blackouts. The tweet added, “The people will beg for it and then we all fall.”
When asked about this, Cllr Johnson said, “There are different parts of the world that have perhaps this system of control more developed.” Asked if that included countries like France, Cllr Johnson said she would need to look at it in more detail but stressed it was not an endorsement and was just a comment she found interesting.
Cllr Johnson also retweeted a tweet that said “the globalist’s ultimate goal is to implement CBDCS (central bank digital currency) as a chip under the skin.” The tweet added, “The technology was ready in 2015 but they have delayed the agenda, implemented various crises to soften people up so they eventually accept it.”
Several banks such as the European Central Bank have considered bringing in a digital currency but this plan does not include putting microchips under people’s skin.
Globalist conspiracy theories argue there is a shadowy elite force that controls world events and governments. This is linked to conspiracies of a New World Order which theorists claim is being achieved through what they claim to be invented crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic and often associated with the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset Initiative, a post-pandemic economic recovery plan.
Asked about the retweet, Cllr Johnson said, “What perhaps you’re missing here is that my role is to look at a narrative and to look at a counter narrative. If we’re looking at something like a globalist versus a sovereign state situation, I’ll be looking at what are the globalists saying and what is the sovereign state saying? That does not mean I am a conspiracy theorist because I am commenting on that.”
She added, “I can’t deny I’ve retweeted them but I can actually say from a World Economic Forum perspective, they’ve taken a very globalist approach and some people subscribe to that globalist approach and there people would subscribe to that sovereign nation approach.
“If you look at the commonality of the thread of everything I’ve said, it’s taking the fact we live in a democracy here in the UK, that we have a sovereign nation democratic voting system where people can vote the person they choose to have in power or not. That is not the case across the world as we know only too well.”
When announcing her candidacy, Cllr Johnson announced six pledges to those whose votes she will be looking to win over at the next general election, which is expected sometime in 2024. This includes campaigning to protect the green belt, tackling hotspots for speeding and dangerous driving, improving transport, tackling crime and supporting healthcare services.
Cllr Johnson pointed to her work as a councillor working with volunteer and community groups and her support for those opposing controversial plans for a golf resort in Hoylake. She said that if elected, she would be a local representative and a Wirral-based MP.
She said, “When we consider the differences between the needs of a Wirral West constituency compared with inner city Liverpool, they are miles apart. Sometimes we can be perceived to be advantaged and yet some of the poorest parts of the entire area are actually ironically within Wirral West.
“We need to be careful not to assume that we’re a leafy suburb with a plentiful money supply, there’s also poverty mixed in with that as well.”
She said crime and antisocial behaviour is becoming an issue on the doorstep and called for a more visible police presence in town centres like West Kirby. She remembered an incident where three young people threw something at a police van, adding, “That kind of feral behaviour can really cause damage to people’s wellbeing and a locality.”
One area the Conservatives will be hoping to gather support concerns the ongoing controversy over the future management of Hoylake Beach, a protected area where vegetation has developed in recent years as beach levels rise.
Cllr Johnson said the divisiveness of the issue was really sad, adding, “I was down there yesterday and it’s a swathe of mess and it’s no longer a beach.” She hopes to take the issue to national government, pointing out that as an MP she’d be able to speak to ministers and relevant government bodies to try and shift the issue.
She said, “Labour are not shifting anything, Labour are in control of this, Labour run the environment committee and Labour are not doing anything to create our amenity beach as I see it at the moment.”
After 14 years in power, Cllr Johnson said voting Conservative may be a tough sell but added, “We are one of the most successful parties in the entirety of Europe and that’s not without reason. I trust that we are starting to turn round the economy now after a torrid time, no one could say in any country across the world that during Covid that was an easy phase for companies. It simply wasn’t.”
Currently the Conservatives are 18% behind Labour at a national level but Cllr Johnson said polls also show a lot are still undecided. She said, “Somebody asked me a very interesting question recently. They said if you had the same policies that we had now and a Labour government and my response to that was they would not deliver.”
She added, “If we can improve the economy, that will improve people’s lives. If we get interest rates down, that improves their mortgages.”
Five other candidates have announced they’re running in Wirral West. This includes Matthew Patrick for Labour, Peter Reisdorf for the Liberal Democrats, Emily Charley for the Greens, Ken Ferguson for Reform UK, and Paul Farragher for the True and Fair Party.
Lead image: Jennifer Johnson, Wirral West prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party. Credit: Edward Barnes