Priti Patel defends decision to leave London for photo opportunity

Priti Patel defends decision to leave London for photo opportunity with police patrols in Hertfordshire despite the pandemic – saying it is her ‘statutory duty’ despite banning holidays and telling the country to stay at home

  • Priti Patel said it was her ‘statutory duty’ to travel to Hertfordshire today
  • She defended her decision to meet with new police recruits in Bishop’s Stortford
  • Boris Johnson flew to Scotland today despite backlash due to the pandemic 

Priti Patel has defended the decision to leave London for a photo opportunity with police patrols in Essex despite the global pandemic.

The Home Secretary said it was her ‘statutory duty’ despite banning holidays and telling the country to stay at home to ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘save lives’.

Ms Patel said it was wrong to compare her journey to Hertfordshire and the Prime Minister’s trip to Scotland with foreign travel made by so-called influencers.

She has repeatedly criticised those who appeared to be using their fame on social media as an excuse to go on holiday.

She spent just over an hour in Bishop’s Stortford on Thursday afternoon, where she met six new recruits, a chief constable, neighbourhood beat officers and local Tory MP Julie Marson.

The Home Secretary said it was her ‘statutory duty’ despite banning holidays and telling the country to stay at home to ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘save lives’. Pictured, with new police recruits on a foot patrol in Hertfordshire

Ms Patel said it was wrong to compare her journey to Hertfordshire and the Prime Minister’s trip to Scotland with foreign travel made by so-called influencers

Ms Patel even remarked, during a brief walk through the town centre with more than two dozen police, aides, close protection officers and media: ‘It’s quite busy round here, or is it just us?’

Asked whether she was heeding Government advice to act like she had the virus, Ms Patel said: ‘We are here in a Covid-compliant setting … of course a national requirement is to stay at home.

‘I’m obviously out here working, our police officers are out here working day in day out, as I am as well as part of that national coronavirus effort.’

Earlier, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Johnson’s visit to Scotland was ‘not essential’ during the current lockdown, arguing that politicians have a ‘duty to lead by example’ as the public live under strict restrictions.

She spent just over an hour in Bishop’s Stortford on Thursday afternoon, where she met six new recruits, a chief constable, neighbourhood beat officers and local Tory MP Julie Marson

Ms Patel said there was a clear distinction between the work of politicians, and that of influencers.

She said: ‘First and foremost, in our capacity with statutory duties and responsibilities we have, we are clearly working.

‘But clearly when it comes to influencers travelling to Dubai there is no guarantee.

‘As I said in Parliament yesterday, people should not be using excuses such as to travel overseas to also go on holiday.’

She has repeatedly criticised those who appeared to be using their fame on social media as an excuse to go on holiday

Ms Patel even remarked, during a brief walk through the town centre with more than two dozen police, aides, close protection officers and media: ‘It’s quite busy round here, or is it just us?’

Asked whether she was heeding Government advice to act like she had the virus, Ms Patel said: ‘We are here in a Covid-compliant setting … of course a national requirement is to stay at home’

She added: ‘It seems too many influencers and others – when you see them on social media – they might be posing, beaches, etc, but that cannot be deemed essential at a time of global pandemic.’

Ms Patel said she ‘fundamentally disagreed’ with the suggestion there was no real difference between travelling away from their constituencies as she and the Prime Minister had done, and an influencer travelling abroad for their work.

She said: ‘The Prime Minister and I have statutory duties and responsibilities in terms of our work with Government as ministers of the crown and as public servants.

‘That’s why you see the Prime Minister every single day working as hard as he does, and why you see me out today with our new police recruits.’

The overall provisional headcount of officers in England and Wales is now 135,248, according to Home Office figures to the end of December. Pictured, Herts Chief Constable Charlie Hall

Ms Patel said there was a clear distinction between the work of politicians, and that of influencers. Pictured, outside the police station

Meanwhile, police forces have hired more than 6,000 officers in the first year of the Government’s recruitment drive to sign up 20,000 by 2023.

The overall provisional headcount of officers in England and Wales is now 135,248, according to Home Office figures to the end of December.

This includes 6,620 hired as part of the 20,000 pledge, a quarterly report on the progress of the scheme said, suggesting the recruitment campaign has exceeded its first-year target of 6,000 by March 2021.

Some 121,016 applications to become a police officer have been received since the campaign was launched in October 2019.

Data gathered since April indicates 40 per cent of new recruits are women and around 10 per cent – of those who stated their ethnicity – were from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

Meanwhile, police forces have hired more than 6,000 officers in the first year of the Government’s recruitment drive to sign up 20,000 by 2023

Online assessment centres were set up amid the coronavirus pandemic, in a bid to keep the recruitment drive on track when face-to-face meetings had to stop as buildings shut.

The new recruits are in addition to those filling existing vacancies or joining police forces as a result of other job adverts – taking the total number of new officers who joined the 43 forces in England and Wales between November 2019 and December last year to 14,585.

During a visit from Ms Patel, Hertfordshire Police Chief Constable Charlie Hall said the force had seen headcount rise by 111 in the last 12 months.

He said: ‘We in the last 12 months have put on 111 officers, which is making a real difference here, a bit above our target to achieve.

‘Those officers are hugely well received in the constabulary, the wider teams welcome them with open arms, but more importantly they are now out there in the communities across Hertfordshire.’

Ms Patel added: ‘We have delivered on our police uplift programme, we will deliver on the 20,000.

‘We have 6,620 new police officers, that is great for the British public.’

Boris Johnson vowed to swell the police service to more than 140,000 officers by mid-2022 as part of his bid to become Prime Minister.

Officer numbers in England and Wales fell by more than 20,000 between 2009 and 2018.

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