Following parliament defeats Boris Johnson is rebuked by police and doctors leaders

A police chief and England’s chief medical officer have hit out at the PM and Jacob Rees-Mogg

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen in Scotland AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen in Scotland AFP

Two of Britain’s most senior policing and health officials have lent their voices to the growing criticism of Boris Johnson and his government.

Police chief constable for West Yorkshire police, John Robins, has criticised Mr Johnson over a recent visit to a training centre where officers lined up behind the PM during a speech that focused on Brexit and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

At the same time, England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, has blasted Mr Johnson’s close ally and leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, for comparing a senior doctor who challenged him to a disgraced anti-vaxxer.

Downing Street have briefed that the UK’s next general election is underway, despite the prime minister’s failure to secure a snap election following three damaging defeats in the House of Commons.

The event in West Yorkshire’s Wakefield, which was perceived as kickstarting the Conservative Party’s unofficial election campaign, has been broadly criticised because of the way officers were used as a prop for a party political message.

Other observers have questioned the optics of flanking Mr Johnson with rows of uniformed police officers as he fights off accusations of undemocratic and authoritarian tendencies following his suspension of parliament.

“It was the understanding that any involvement of our officers was solely about police officer recruitment,’ Mr Robbins said.

“I was therefore disappointed to see my police officers as a backdrop to the part of the speech that was not related to recruitment,” he added in a statement.

Other policing officials used stronger language. John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation for England and Wales, called the decision “wrong” and said he was “surprised that police officers were used as a backdrop for a political speech in this way”.

Mark Burns-Williamson, a West Yorkshire Labour politician who serves as police and crime commissioner has said the visit was “hijacked” and accused Mr Johnson of embarking on a "rant about Brexit, about the opposition and appeared to be blatant electioneering".

10 Downing Street reaffirmed, in the face of the criticism, that Mr Johnson visited the Wakefield centre to push his police recruitment policy.

“The prime minister's long-planned visit highlighted a national recruitment campaign for 20,000 officers which has been welcomed across the police service,” a Downing Street spokeswoman told The National.

“It gave him the opportunity to see first-hand the training which new recruits receive and to see those who have committed their lives to keeping the rest of us safe,” she added.

On Thursday Ms Davies, in a letter to Mr Rees-Mogg, expressed her “sincere disappointment” at the Conservative politician’s comparisons of Dr David Nicholl, who had given evidence on the dangers of a no-deal Brexit for Britain’s National Health Service, to Andrew Wakefield.

Dr Wakefield became infamous in Britain over a decade ago for saying the combined Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccine caused autism in children. He was ultimately struck off the medical register for his fraudulent anti-vaccine claims.

Mr Rees-Mogg, after two days had passed, eventually apologised for the characterisation, which he made in the house of commons.

“I apologise to Dr Nicholl for the comparison with Dr Wakefield. I have the utmost respect for all of the country’s hardworking medical professionals and the work they do in caring for the people of this country,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

In Westminster, Mr Johnson and his close adviser Dominic Cummings have been in hot water over the dismissal of Treasury aide Sonia Khan. Ms Khan, a media adviser to former chancellor Philip Hammond, who was escorted by police from Number 10 following a meeting with Mr Cummings.

In a radio interview with the BBC, Mr Hammond, who has had the Conservative whip withdrawn because of his opposition to a no-deal Brexit, said his former advisor would win an employment tribunal over her dismissal.

“It’s extraordinary that Dominic Cummings should have chosen to pick on her,” Mr Hammond told the BBC. “She ironically is a very firm Brexiteer."

“If she went to an employment tribunal, I suspect she would win her case,” he added.

Updated: September 6, 2019 08:38 PM

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