PM criticised for using police as 'backdrop' to Brexit speech

The visit was meant to highlight police recruitment

Friday, September 6, 2019

A police chief has said he was “disappointed” that his officers were used as a “backdrop” during a speech by Boris Johnson that discussed Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn.

John Robins, chief constable for West Yorkshire Police said the force had agreed for officers to appear on the “understanding” that the speech would centre on the government’s police recruitment drive.

The Prime Minister began by thanking West Yorkshire’s officers but after four minutes centred on the police, Mr Johnson spent the next 18 minutes discussing Brexit and again pushing for a general election.

Mr Robins said he had “no prior knowledge” that the speech would turn political.

More than 30 new recruits were positioned behind the PM's lectern for at least 20 minutes before the speech began, and during the address one officer became unwell.

The Prime Minister also faced condemnation from MPs.

Labour’s Mary Creagh, who is the MP for Wakefield, where the speech took place, said in a tweet: “Keeps them waiting in the sun for an hour. Carries on spouting when a recruit feels faint and sits down. We saw today how Johnson treats the police.”

Her colleague Yvette Cooper joined in the criticism saying it was an “abuse of power” to have a police be part of a “political stunt”, while shadow policing minister Louise Haigh demanded the PM apologise.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said he was "surprised" at the use of the officers in a political speech and that it was the "wrong decision".

However, a spokeswoman from Number 10 defended the visit to the training facility and said it was “highlighting” the recruitment campaign.

"It gave the PM yesterday an opportunity to see first-hand the outstanding training which new recruits receive and to meet those who have committed their lives to keeping us safe," she added.

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