Police chief 'disappointed' by Boris Johnson speech in front of officers

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in front of police cadets in Wakefield
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in front of police cadets in Wakefield
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A row over the use of police officers as a backdrop for a political speech by Boris Johnson has escalated after the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police said he was “disappointed” by the way the event had been staged.

Chief Constable John Robins said his force had “no prior knowledge” of the content of the Prime Minister’s speech, and that two separate events at the police academy in Wakefield were combined at short notice.

Mr Johnson faced calls to apologise for the use of police cadets as a backdrop to remarks that including fresh calls for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to allow a snap general election to take place.

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"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,” Mr Robins said in a statement.

The chief constable added: "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 [National Police Air Service] 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."

Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh demanded an apology from the Prime Minister to the West Yorkshire force.

She said: "The Prime Minister and his aides deceived the police by knowingly using officers for a naked party political stunt, without their prior knowledge.

"This is a serious breach of trust and the Prime Minister should be ashamed of putting serving officers in this intolerable position. He should apologise to them immediately."

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Mr Johnson endured a difficult visit to Yorkshire on Thursday, on what Downing Street billed as the first day of campaigning for an election that the government has been blocked from calling until a delay to Brexit is confirmed.

He was captured on camera being told to “please leave my town” by a man while walking around Wakefield, and was berated by another member of the public for focusing on campaigning rather than securing a new Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister was also criticised for his reaction after one of the cadets standing behind him during his speech fell ill after standing for nearly an hour.