Sadiq Khan under fire over ‘pathetic’ £1.5m New Year’s Eve firework display

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·4-min read

Watch: Sadiq Khan under fire over ‘pathetic’ £1.5 million London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks

Sadiq Khan has come under fire after holding a surprise New Year’s Eve fireworks display that cost £1.5m.

Tory London Assembly member Tony Devenish hit out at the mayor during Tuesday’s budget and performance committee meeting via video link, calling the display “pathetic”.

On Thursday, London welcomed in 2021 with a 10-minute light and fireworks show on the Thames, featuring tributes to the NHS, Captain Tom Moore and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The extravaganza included 300 drones creating images in the sky, including a joke about working from home that consisted of a mute symbol next to the words: “No, you’re on mute.”

Read: Councillor fined for attending Zoom meeting while driving lorry

But Devenish slammed the display on Tuesday and criticised the mayor for spending so much money on it during the pandemic.

He said: “I'm wondering why you thought it was a good idea to spend £1.5m on New Year's Eve on a pathetic firework party?"

A light display over the River Thames and fireworks on Tower Bridge in London, as London's normal New Year's Eve fireworks display was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A light display over the River Thames and fireworks on Tower Bridge on New Year's Eve. (PA)

The London mayor responded by accusing the councillor of "embarrassing flip-flopping" after he had previously said the show's initial cancellation was a "hammer blow".

Khan said: "I'm surprised by that question because the same member said it was a ‘hammer blow’ when I announced the public fireworks were going to be cancelled.”

The mayor added: "He also, as I recall, when he was speaking to my chief of staff at a hearing reminded them, and I quote, “about the significant value that fireworks have in promoting London globally. Which is it? This flip-flop is embarrassing Tony."

As the heated exchange continued, Devenish replied: "Well, Mr Mayor you know far more about flip-flopping than me."

Fireworks and drones illuminate the night sky over London as they form a light display as London's normal New Year's Eve fireworks display was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fireworks and drones illuminate the night sky over London. (PA)

The councillor then cited a letter sent to the committee about how the capital should be maximising resources during the lockdown.

He said: "Is it maximising resources by spending £1.5m on saying ‘You're on mute’ as a fireworks symbol. It's pathetic."

Khan has already been forced to publicly defend London’s New Year show.

The vast majority of people online appeared to celebrate the display but others were critical its perceived political messages.

Watch: Mayor of London: It’s unclear why Boris Johnson doesn’t speak to me

Devenish was one of the critics who slammed the show on Twitter, saying: “Disgusting waste of money Sadiq Khan. More of a sick joke by the week.”

Former Ukip leader Henry Bolton added: “Stop politicising New Year’s Eve Mr Khan. It’s for everyone.”

Brexit Alliance assembly member Peter Whittle said: "So, an organisation that wants to defund the police, dismantle the family, sweep away capitalism and deconstruct British history gets celebrated in the middle of what should be a harmless new year ritual. Predictably disgraceful from this mayor."

His criticism was echoed by independent mayoral candidate David Kurten, who wrote: "It is deplorable that London's New Year fireworks display contains a Marxist/BLM fist. If you want to celebrate British culture and not destructive ideologies, vote me for London Mayor on May 6."

Fireworks and drones illuminate the night sky over London as they form a light display as London's normal New Year's Eve fireworks display was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fireworks over east London on New Year's Eve. (PA)

Gary Williams said: “Regardless of the worthiness of the causes, I wish we could go back to having fireworks displays that don’t try to ram a message down your throat.”

Responding to the criticism, Khan shared a picture online of a MailOnline headline reading: “Fury at Sadiq Khan for ‘forcing politics’ onto NYE: Locked-down Londoners rage over ‘woke’ fireworks demo that lit up night sky with EU flag, NHS logo and BLM fist after mayor worked with BBC and Met Police to keep event secret.”

Khan tweeted: “Anyone else think it was pretty good?"

Read more: The only reasons you can leave your house in new lockdown

Earlier, Khan said although crowds along the river were banned this year due to coronavirus restrictions, the display reflected the resolve of Londoners to endure despite the pandemic.

The mayor said in a statement: “I’m proud that the eyes of the world turned to our capital to see a unique drone, lighting and firework show that reflected on the defining moments of this year, paid tribute to our NHS heroes and the way that Londoners continue to stand together, and showed why our city is the greatest in the world.

"We showed how our capital and the UK have made huge sacrifices to support one another through these difficult times, and how they will continue to do so as the vaccine is rolled out."

Watch: Firework displays across the world welcome in 2021