Barking to Beijing in 36 hours and other claims as council leader says “the world owes us”

The leader of Barking and Dagenham Council has claimed tat there will be a train from Barking to Beijing that takes just 36 hours by the end of the decade.

In a ranting City Hall speech, Councillor Darren Rodwell slammed Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda for excluding parts of East London.

He also claimed that Barking and Dagenham had “stopped slavery,” adding that “the world owes us”.

Councillor Rodwell condemned Boris Johnson’s levelling up plans of being “a propaganda load of rubbish”.

He added that the government was wrong not to prioritise investment from its levelling up fund in East London, arguing that local industry would soon be connected by rail to the rest of the world.

He said: “By the end of this decade you’ll be able to get a train to all of Europe, you’ll be able to go to Russia, China, Asia Africa – 80 per cent of the world’s economies on a train from East London – from Barking to Beijing in 36 hours.

“If you don’t believe me, then you’re not from East London.”

Cllr Rodwell began his speech by yelling at his audience to “shut up”, saying that the noise the crowd was making was disrespectful to the people in East London who had died of COVID.

He went on to criticise the government’s levelling up plans and called for more investment in Barking and Dagenham.

He said levelling up was: “A propaganda piece of rubbish by a government that doesn’t know the people of East London.

“Why? Because if they knew East London, we don’t need handouts we just need to carry on empowering the people from our communities.

“From the City in the east, all the way through Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking and Dagenham – along the estuary – we have been the driving force of London.”

Cllr Rodwell also referred to the borough’s history, claiming that Barking and Dagenham had changed the world.

He said: “We are proud to say we are East London and we are proud to say we can change the world because we’ve done it so many times.

“We stopped slavery, we brought equality, and by the way to our friends in the United States we also funded your independence.

“So the world owes us, and we should be asking the world not for a handout but for opportunities.”

The council leader added that a new freeport was coming to the borough which would bring 21,000 jobs but that more investment would be needed to grow the local economy.

He said: “I need the government to understand that they need to get out of the way so that we can work with our American friends in investment, we can work with our friends across the whole of Asia, we can work in Europe for investment because East London is a gateway as well.”

The government were contacted for comment.

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Alastair Lockhart

Local Democracy Reporter