'I'm obviously out here working': Priti Patel defends out-of-town visit

28 January 2021, 19:59

Priti Patel has defended her trip outside of London to Bishop's Stortford
Priti Patel has defended her trip outside of London to Bishop's Stortford. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Priti Patel has defended her trip outside of London for a meet and greet with police officers, saying it was part of her "statutory duty".

The home secretary's decision to depart the capital came on the same day Boris Johnson caused a stir for travelling to Scotland for work purposes.

Ms Patel rubbished suggestions that her journey to Hertfordshire on Thursday, or the prime minister's trip north of the border, was on a par with influencers heading abroad during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cabinet minister has been a vociferous critic of people seemingly using their social media platforms as an excuse to go on holiday while lockdown restrictions are in effect.

On Thursday afternoon, the home secretary spent more than an hour in Bishop's Stortford - roughly 40 miles outside of central London - where she met six new recruits, a chief constable, neighbourhood police officers and local Tory MP, Julie Marson.

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During a short walk through the town centre with more than two dozen police, aides, close protection officers and members of the media, Ms Patel remarked: "It's quite busy round here, or is it just us?"

Asked whether she was abiding by the government's advice to act like she had the virus, the MP for Witham, in Essex, said: "We are here in a Covid-compliant setting ... of course a national requirement is to stay at home.

"I'm obviously out here working, our police officers are out here working day in day out, as I am as well as part of that national coronavirus effort."

Earlier, First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Johnson's trip north was "not essential" during the current lockdown, arguing that politicians have a "duty to lead by example" as the public endures tight restrictions.

However, Ms Patel said there was a clear difference between the work of politicians and influencers and that she "fundamentally disagreed" with those who have argued the contrary.

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Read more: Boris Johnson's visit to Scotland 'not essential', Sturgeon says

"First and foremost, in our capacity with statutory duties and responsibilities we have, we are clearly working," she said.

"But clearly when it comes to influencers travelling to Dubai there is no guarantee.

"As I said in Parliament yesterday, people should not be using excuses such as to travel overseas to also go on holiday."

The home secretary added: "It seems too many influencers and others - when you see them on social media - they might be posing, beaches, etc, but that cannot be deemed essential at a time of global pandemic."

Ms Patel explained that her work and the UK leader's work was part of their duty "as ministers of the crown and as public servants".

"That's why you see the prime minister every single day working as hard as he does, and why you see me out today with our new police recruits," she said.

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