A British police chief has criticized Prime Minister Boris Johnson for using police officers as a “backdrop” for a political event.
The comments from John Robins, the chief constable for the West Yorkshire force, came after Johnson delivered a speech in front of a group of police recruits to highlight his government’s promise to invest more money in policing.
But the address quickly turned into an awkward and disjointed riff on Brexit and the prospects of a general election.
Robins said he believed his officers would be used “solely” to highlight the police recruitment drive, and that he had “no prior knowledge that the speech would be broadened to other issues until it was delivered.”
“I was therefore disappointed to see my police officers as a backdrop to the part of the speech that was not related to recruitment,” Robins said in a statement.
Johnson used the speech to repeatedly insist that he did not want to seek a snap election to break Britain out of its Brexit paralysis, while repeatedly calling on opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to grant him one.
He also said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask the European Union for another extension to the official Brexit deadline, despite the increasing likelihood that he could be forced to do so.
The police recruits were forced to stand behind the Prime Minister’s lectern for at least 20 minutes before his speech began, the UK Press Association reported. Near the end of his address, one of he recruits standing behind him became visibly ill and had to sit down.
A Labour lawmaker accused Johnson on Thursday of a “blatant” attempt to politicize the police while he delivered a campaign-style speech.
“They are not political props,” Stephen Doughty tweeted on Thursday. In a follow up tweet on Friday he added that Johnson must “apologize” for the “political stunt.”
No-deal bill passed as opposition refuses to vote for elections
Johnson’s bizarre speech was just one of a series of mishaps for the Prime Minister this week. Members of his party are resigning in droves, Parliament has moved to block his Brexit plans, and opposition lawmakers are refusing to vote in favor of the snap elections he has called for.
On Friday the UK’s House of Lords approved the legislation which will force Johnson to seek a Brexit delay if he cannot secure a new deal with the EU by October 19.
Leaders of the UK’s opposition parties also announced Friday that they had agreed not to back Johnson’s motion for fresh elections when the government brings it back to the House of Commons on Monday.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru will either abstain or vote against the government’s motion, which calls for an election in mid-October before the Brexit deadline of October 31.
Their decision means the motion – which requires a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons to pass – will almost certainly fail.
“Jeremy Corbyn hosted a positive conference call with other opposition party leaders this morning. They discussed advancing efforts to prevent a damaging no-deal Brexit and hold a general election once that is secured,” a Labour spokesperson told CNN.
An SNP statement sent to CNN said the party was “ready for an election, but we will not be played by Boris Johnson.”
CNN’s Sarah Dean and Martin Goillandeau contributed reporting.