A London Assembly member is campaigning to ban Tube advertisements for flights to North Cyprus, despite a similar campaign eight years ago costing taxpayers over £150,000 in legal fees.
Brian Coleman, the Conservative assembly member for Barnet and Camden, has been branded “a disgrace to politics” for wanting to remove Pegasus Airlines posters promoting flights to Turkey and North Cyprus from the London Underground. His latest bid aims to convince Transport for London to remove the airline’s advertisements because they are “deeply offensive” to his Greek Cypriot constituents.
“Many families lost their homes when they were illegally taken after the invasion,” Mr Coleman said, referring to Turkey’s 1974 military intervention in Cyprus in response to a Greek-backed coup. “I have set up an online campaign to encourage Londoners to write to the Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy to voice their concerns, and to call for the adverts to be removed.”
But a former Liberal Democrat councillor said the campaign was a political attempt to obstruct trade with North Cyprus and not based on the adverts’ content.
“Coleman is a disgrace to politics. The adverts do not deceive holiday-makers in the slightest,” said John Oakes, a former Haringey councillor. “Adverts for flights to Tokyo don’t carry stopover details – you learn those once you book.”
Baroness Hussein-Ece, the Liberal Democrat peer who has Turkish Cypriot origins, said “lessons should be learned” from the previous attempt to ban North Cyprus advertisements.
In 2004, Mr Coleman persuaded Transport for London to refuse advertising from the North Cypriot Tourist Centre, which had been using London buses to promote holidays in North Cyprus. TfL argued the destination was a country not recognised by the UK government, that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus “has no lawful interest in tourism in Cyprus” and that many Greek Cypriots in London were offended by adverts promoting holidays in the north.
The case was taken to the High Court, which ruled TfL had “failed to demonstrate any ‘pressing social need’ for the decision”. TfL, a publicly funded body, was ordered to pay £154,000 in legal costs. North Cyprus tourism advertising has since appeared across London transport.
“It is regrettable that an elected member of the Greater London Assembly should attempt to get embroiled in the Cyprus issue which the UN has been actively engaged in trying to resolve for 40 years,” Baroness Hussein-Ece said in respone to Mr Coleman’s latest campaign.
“He should focus on matters he was elected to do. This is a slap in the face for the well-established Turkish-Cypriot community in London.”
The campaign, “Greek Cypriots against Pegasus Tube Advertisement”, has launched a Facebook page, where it invites respondents to email Peter Hendy, TfL’s Transport Commissioner, with a message urging him to remove the Pegasus adverts.
The campaign also calls on participants to share their thoughts using the #PegasusAds hashtag on Twitter. As Londra Gazete went to press last night, just one message of support had been posted.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey, meaning that any flights headed there from the UK must land at a Turkish airport first. Pegasus Airlines posters indicate its North Cyprus destinations are reached via Istanbul.
In a statement, Pegasus said: “The purpose our advertisements is to inform passengers and promote the airline’s flights. These adverts comply with the relevant British advertising codes.”
Brian Coleman’s office refused to comment.