The Home Secretary has condemned high street cosmetics chain Lush for a campaign accusing police of being “paid to lie”.
In a statement on Twitter, Sajid Javid wrote: “Never thought I would see a mainstream British retailer running a public advertising campaign against our hardworking police. This is not a responsible way to make a point.”
Best known for its vegan and cruelty-free beauty products, the brand stepped out of its usual niche this week to launch a nationwide “Spy Cops” campaign, criticising undercover policing.
But it has now been accused of “tarnishing all cops with the same brush” in themed window displays featuring fake police tape reading: “Police have crossed the line” and “paid to lie”.
Hundreds of people flocked to the Lush Facebook page to condemn the brand with a one star review, with some claiming they would “never step foot into your shops again”.
One ex-police officer suggested the company had destroyed its image by “hating on our thin blue line”.
“How about supporting those that work hard with limited resources day in day out, whilst there are massive cuts to the emergency services,” he wrote. “They take on knife wielding suspects and protect vulnerable people and you guys sell make up... Hope you’re proud of yourselves.”
A public inquiry into the use undercover policing is currently being held at the Royal Courts of Justice.
It has been running for eight years, and was launched by Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary after a string of allegations about undercover units, including that Scotland Yard had spied on the campaign group fighting for justice for the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.
One customer branded the company “disgraceful and disrespectful”.
“How dare your you generalise an entire organisation because of one or two individuals,” he wrote.
One account on Twitter, under the name Paddy Reeve, said: “As a result of me visiting Lush, Peterborough, their terribly misleading marketing campaign was removed from their window.
Lush released a statement in response to the growing furore, saying: “This is not an anti-state/anti-police campaign. We are aware that the police forces of the UK are doing an increasingly difficult and dangerous job whilst having their funding slashed.
“We fully support them in having proper police numbers, correctly funded to fight crime, violence and to be there to serve the public at our times of need.”
It continued: “Our campaign is to highlight this small and secretive subset of undercover policing that undermines and threatens the very idea of democracy.”
Che Donald, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, called on customers to boycott Lush, claiming that the “poorly thought out campaign” is “damaging to the large majority of police who have nothing to do with this undercover inquiry”.
“I will now clear my house of any of your products and my family and friends will never use them again,” he wrote on Twitter.
Former police officer Peter Kirkham echoed Donald’s call for the public to #FlushLush, saying that the cause “stereotypes all police officers as corrupt and includes some fundamental misrepresentations of the facts”.
When asked to respond to customers’ claims about the campaign, Lush referred HuffPost UK to a press release about the project, which explains it aims to “highlight the current lack of progress of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and the granting of anonymity to key police witnesses”.