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Sex Pistols’ John Lydon says immigration has created “division and animosity” in the UK

Former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon has said that immigration has created “division and animosity” in the UK.

The London-born singer, whose parents were immigrants from Ireland, discussed the apparent effects of immigration and doubled down on his support for Brexit during an interview on LBC last night (March 7).

“Britain today is so, so catastrophically disappointing,” said Lydon, who now lives in Los Angeles, California.

He went on to talk about how some of the shows on his forthcoming spoken word tour – dubbed ‘I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right’ – would be taking place “in seaside towns” such as Brighton, Folkestone and Blackpool.

“I mean, they really indicate how rundown Britain has become,” Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, continued. “Those used to be fantastic places when I was a kid. Mum and dad would drag us off there for what felt like hours in a traffic jam, but it was absolutely great.

“It was working-class people throwing sand at each other […] and the environment was economically thriving, I suppose, in the seaside towns […] It was vibrant.”

Lydon went on to claim that such towns were now “full” of “prospective immigrants, which are really like illegals [who are] not being cared for properly, but they shouldn’t have been accepted in such vast numbers”.

He said: “It’s created a real, real animosity in communities. The division… when you import so many people with a completely different point of view, they’re not going to adapt to yours. They’re going to stay and bring the problems they’re allegedly escaping from with them.”

Host Andrew Marr then pushed back on the remarks, asking the singer what the difference was between Britain “importing the Lydons” from Ireland and the current situation in the United Kingdom.

“The first thing my mum and dad ever would tell me when I was very young was, ‘You’re British now! Be British, and be proud of it!’” Lydon responded. “Most excellent advice, and I’ve followed through.”

Later, the artist reaffirmed his support for Brexit. “When you go to towns like Middlesborough and Sunderland, and you see what the EU has done to them… it’s quite awful,” he said. “They’ve turned them into Ikea shopping centres where the local communities have been completely dissipated.”

Marr pressed Lydon on his past comments on Brexit and endorsement of Nigel Farage (in 2017, the singer said: “Where do I stand on Brexit? Well, here it goes, the working-class have spoke and I’m one of them and I’m with them. And there it is.”)

The presenter asked whether Lydon was “a bit disappointed” by the result of Brexit “because we haven’t had the kind of revival that you might have hoped for at the time” of the 2016 EU referendum.

He replied: “Oh, I didn’t think there’d be a revival – just away from the officious nature and nastiness of Brussels. We didn’t vote for these people to tell us what to do and think […] I don’t want to be dictated to by people I don’t have at least the slightest resemblance of voting for.”

Referring to Brexit’s impact on the economy, Lydon added: “I’d rather a faltering economy than a dictatorship.”

Responding to Lydon’s LBC appearance, British journalist and broadcaster Pete Paphides – whose 2020 memoir Broken Greek details his upbringing with Greek-Cypriot parents – wrote: “There’s no shame in saying, ‘I’ve been away for a long time and I haven’t really been paying attention to this issue in all its complexity, so therefore am not in a position to hold forth about it. Can you ask me something else please?’”

Paphides continued: “I mean, remembering that lots of people used to buy Kiss Me Quick hats in the 1960s is no basis upon which to mount any sort of argument about struggling seaside towns in relation to immigration.

“Thinking about it more, I think that what I’m seeing with John Lydon is what happens to a lot of old people who spend too much time alone, perhaps having lost loved ones, who feel like the modern world has forgotten them.

“They get depressed & with all that time on their hands, make specious connections between phenomena that have nothing to do with each other, their alienation rendered toxic by targeted social media content and nostalgia for a world they once understood.”

He added: “I don’t know what the answer is other than that some kinder, smarter people need to give them attention and earn his trust before these incoherent thoughts start to foment in their heads. And journalists need to stop asking them what they think about stuff.”

Elsewhere, protest punk band Kill, The Icon! wrote: “Dear John Lydon, Nobody is ‘illegal’. I won’t be listening to your music again. You are officially a fake punk.”

Scottish actor Sean Biggerstaff (Harry Potter), meanwhile, said: “[Lydon] has to know this scapegoating is bollocks. Why doesn’t Johnny Rotten have a word to say about Thatcherism when discussing the decline of British towns? What happened to him?”

When expressing his support for Brexit during an interview in 2017, Lydon also described the then-US President Donald Trump as a “complicated fellow”. He claimed at the time that Trump had been “smeared” by the “left-wing media”.

“What I dislike is the left-wing media in America are trying to smear the bloke as a racist and that’s completely not true,” Lydon explained.

“There are many, many problems with him as a human being but he’s not that and there just might be a chance something good will come out of that situation because he terrifies politicians.”

In 2020, Lydon said he would be voting for Trump in the US presidential election that year because he felt Joe Biden was “incapable” of leading America.

He is said to have started supporting Trump after the former POTUS was accused of racism. “I’ve been accused of the very same thing,” Lydon said, “so I’m offended for anybody who’s called that.”

The following year, he hit out at “spoilt” snowflakes and woke culture – declaring it to be a “load of bollocks”.

Back in 2008, Lydon was accused of an “unprovoked racist attack” on Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke after the frontman asked him if he would ever consider reforming Public Image Ltd.. The Sex Pistols star subsequently denied the claims.

Okereke, who suffered severe facial bruising, cuts to his face and body and a split lip from the altercation, later referred to Lydon as “the devil in my eyes”.

In 2014, Lydon shared his thoughts on the UK Independence Party (UKIP) – which at the time was led by Nigel Farage. “Their talk about immigration is subdued racism, and that’s unfortunate because it’s an important issue,” he said.

“Immigration: is there a cap on it or isn’t there? Is it really a free-for-all? What is the NHS and is it strictly for the citizens of said country? People are confused, and they get drawn into headline-mongering. It really bloody annoys me.”

Lydon’s 2024 ‘I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right’ UK tour is scheduled to begin in May. The shows will see the singer deliver an “untamed, unscripted and uncensored” spoken word session.

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