Police criticise Boris Johnson for 'inappropriate' Brexit speech at training centre

6 September 2019, 14:40

The Prime Minister visited Carr Gate training facility on Thursday
The Prime Minister visited Carr Gate training facility on Thursday. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson today faced criticism from senior police officers after the Prime Minister used a speech at a training facility to discuss Brexit.

Mr Johnson used the visit to Carr Gate training facility in West Yorkshire to reference a general election and criticise Jeremy Corbyn against a backdrop of trainee police officers.

One female officer looked like she was about to faint during the speech and had to take a seat, which prompted the Prime Minister to say he would "wrap up."

But he was criticised by the force’s Chief Constable John Robins, who said the move “overshadowed” the good news of extra officers.

Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson also criticised the Prime Minister, saying the speech was “totally inappropriate” and “unacceptable.”

Mr Robins said in a statement: “Yesterday’s visit by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary was to visit our Carr Gate training facilities, to announce the launch of the national recruitment campaign for an extra 20,000 police officers.

“There were four stages to the visit at four different points on our Carr Gate site.

The Prime Minister was criticised for his speech in front of police officers
The Prime Minister was criticised for his speech in front of police officers. Picture: PA

“These were a visit to the Mounted Section, an informal meeting with new student officers, a 5 minute speech by the Prime Minister followed by media questions to launch the recruitment campaign and a then a visit to the NPAS base where the Prime Minister was to deliver a 10 minute speech to the media, without police officers present and take questions (whilst the Home Secretary would speak to NPAS officers and staff inside).

“I repeat that I am pleased that we were chosen as the focal point of the national recruitment campaign launch, but the good news of extra officers was overshadowed by the media coverage of other events.

“It was the understanding of West Yorkshire Police that any involvement of our officers was solely about police officer recruitment.

“We had no prior knowledge that the speech would be broadened to other issues until it was delivered.

“Minutes before the speech, we were told that the NPAS visit and subsequent brief to a small media pool had been cancelled.

“I was therefore disappointed to see my police officers as a backdrop to the part of the speech that was not related to recruitment.

“I am proud of the resilience and professionalism of every single one of our student officers yesterday. “With the recruitment of additional officers alongside them over the next few years, we will hopefully be in a better position to now deliver the service that the public deserve and expect.”

The PM visited the facility with Home Secretary Pritti Patel
The PM visited the facility with Home Secretary Pritti Patel. Picture: PA

Mr Burns-Williamson added: "I had already said in a statement I had issued yesterday that the Government reversal around police recruitment appeared to be a tacit admittance that they had got it wrong over the past 10 years or so, despite the attempts of Boris Johnson on his visit to West Yorkshire to wash over his own Government's legacy on support and funding for policing.

"I said that before he came, so for him to then use trainee police officers as the backdrop to what became a political speech was totally inappropriate, those officers and West Yorkshire Police should not have been put in that position.

"A visit from the Home Secretary which originally started out as a discussion about the plans for police recruitment, clearly turned into a rant about Brexit, about the opposition and appeared to be blatant electioneering, which was completely unacceptable as a last minute hijacking of the visit by Boris Johnson.

"The news of the recruitment drive and the acknowledgment of how officers and staff have suffered with austerity was completely lost because he was only interested in getting his own agenda across. "There is no way police officers and staff, who clearly thought it would be all about police recruitment announcements, should have formed a backdrop to a speech of that nature.

"I have asked the Chief Constable John Robins for a full explanation around what happened and he is already aware of my dismay and wider concerns this has created and that the public and the media saw through the attempts by Boris Johnson to cloak his political speech under the guise of police recruitment announcements."