Two MPs have written to the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire police force expressing concern over Boris Johnson’s speech which was delivered in front of officers on Thursday.
Paula Sherriff and Tracy Brabin, the members of parliament for Dewsbury and Batley and Spen respectively, slammed the event in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, as “a party political broadcast”.
While praising the “incredible hard work and bravery” that police officers demonstrate everyday in keeping public safe, the pair also highlighted their constituents’ worry about the lack of visibility of officers, slow response times and dwindling resources.
“We were therefore startled to see, when resources are so tight, a significant number of young cadets being used as set dressing for what seemed like the prime minister’s election campaign launch,” the letter read.
The MPs went on to question why the cadets were kept waiting for “at least an hour” in the sun, how much the event costed and whether officers were advised of the nature of the event.
While Johnson was speaking onstage, he was repeatedly asked about his brother Jo Johnson’s resignation with journalists questioning why voters should believe in him if his own sibling did not.
Already facing calls to resign, the prime minister said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit beyond October 31 - although he did not commit to quitting.
One of the officers arranged behind Johnson was overcome with sickness during his speech, for which he arrived over an hour late, and had to sit down.
The prime minister was foiled in his efforts to trigger a snap election by opposition parties on Wednesday.
The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson called for Johnson to apologise.
Burns-Williamson told the PA news agency: “To use police officers as the backdrop to what became a political speech was inappropriate and they shouldn’t have been put in that position.
“It clearly turned into a rant about Brexit, the Opposition and a potential general election. There’s no way that police officers should’ve formed the backdrop to a speech of that nature.”
Commenting on Johnson’s press conference, Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said she plans to write to the Cabinet Secretary and the West Yorkshire Chief Constable John Robins to “ask how this has happened and what guidelines were followed”.
“For Boris Johnson to make so many police stop their training and work to be part of his political stunt is an abuse of power,” Cooper said.
“Police officers and trainees are overstretched and need to be able to get on with their job, not have to waste time listening to Boris Johnson’s political press conference. The police do their job in good faith supporting the whole community.
“For Boris Johnson to draw so many of them into a long, election driven event like this is completely inappropriate and it is unfair on the people of West Yorkshire who are entitled to expect that their police are allowed to get on with the job of working and training to keep them safe”.
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “I am surprised that police officers were used as a backdrop for a political speech in this way.
“I am sure that on reflection all concerned will agree that this was the wrong decision and it is disappointing that the focus has been taken away from the recruitment of 20,000 officers. This is what we should be talking about, this is what is important.”