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PM tries to shift focus to crime after Priti Patel rebuke and ‘pingdemic’ row

·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London (Daniel Leal-Olivas) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London (Daniel Leal-Olivas) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson will seek to shift the focus on to tackling crime when he re-emerges from isolation to counter criticism over the “pingdemic” and police anger at Home Secretary Priti Patel

The Prime Minister is expected to unveil his new “beating crime plan” on Tuesday after leaving quarantine at his Chequers country retreat following a coronavirus contact.

As he began his third year in No 10, Mr Johnson vowed to ensure that every victim of crime has “a named officer to call – someone who is immediately on your side”.

His Government has faced anger over the Covid-19 rules causing staff shortages as infections soar during his time in isolation over a contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

I cannot look my colleagues in the eye and do nothing

Police Federation national chairman John Apter

And Ms Patel received an extraordinary rebuke from the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file officers.

The body said it no longer has confidence in the Home Secretary after describing a bitterly opposed pay freeze as “the final straw”.

Mr Johnson, writing in the Sunday Express, said: “We need now to redouble our efforts, to continue to put more police out on the street, and to back them all the way.”

He also vowed to introduce reforms, writing that “we want everyone to know that if you are the victim of crime you have a named officer to call – someone who is immediately on your side”.

Other measures he outlined included publishing league tables for 101 and 999 call answering times, putting more police into dealing with “the tiny minority of truant kids”, and intensifying efforts against county lines drug gangs.

But Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation representing rank-and-file officers in the capital, criticised the “named officer” plan as unworkable.

He told the PA news agency: “That’s a gimmick because it’s not practical.

“If that officer is on a shift pattern or off sick or on holiday, that just puts added pressure on that officer.

“It doesn’t work in that way – you can’t start singularly naming officers because by the sheer nature of their work… if they’re not at work, what happens then?”

Mr Marsh also criticised the Prime Minister’s suggestion he backs police “all the way”.

“Well he’s not backing us all the way is he, he’s treating us in a derisory way,” he said, raising concerns over police treatment in the pandemic.

“And what do we get at the end of it? As usual, absolutely nothing.

Home Secretary Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Home Secretary Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

“His words are hollow and my colleagues are fed up with it now.”

On Thursday, the Police Federation’s national chairman, John Apter, delivered a blow to Ms Patel.

“At the beginning of this pandemic they endured PPE shortages and were not even prioritised for the vaccination,” he said.

“They continue to be politicised and this pay announcement is the final straw.

“As the organisation that represents more than 130,000 police officers I can say quite categorically: we have no confidence in the current Home Secretary. I cannot look my colleagues in the eye and do nothing.”

Meanwhile, Mr Javid said on Saturday that he has made a “full recovery” and that his “symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines” as he urged the public to get their jabs.

He received a positive test result on July 17 for a coronavirus infection that ultimately sent the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak into isolation as contacts.

The pair initially tried to avoid isolation by saying they were taking part in a testing pilot, but backed down in the face of widespread public criticism.

Both of their quarantine periods are expected to finish at the end of Monday.

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