UK’s John­son pushes his Brexit plan

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - NEWS - By Jill Law­less and Danica Kirka

LON­DON >> With two days un­til Bri­tain’s elec­tion, Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son’s fi­nal push to drive home his key mes­sage about Brexit was over­shad­owed Tues­day by crit­i­cism of his ham­fisted re­sponse to the im­age of a sick child sleep­ing on a hos­pi­tal floor and al­le­ga­tions that he ex­ploited a ter­ror­ist knife at­tack for po­lit­i­cal gain.

Dave Mer­ritt, whose son was killed in last month’s Lon­don Bridge at­tack, said the way the tragedy had been ex­ploited for po­lit­i­cal ends was “crass and in­sen­si­tive.”

Mer­ritt’s 25-year-old son Jack was one of two peo­ple killed when a for­mer con­vict at­tacked peo­ple at a pris­oner re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion event that Mer­ritt was help­ing to run on Nov. 29. At­tacker Us­man Khan had served eight years in prison for ter­ror­ism of­fenses, and the at­tack sparked a po­lit­i­cal spat about se­cu­rity, the early re­lease of pris­on­ers and fund­ing for the prison and jus­tice sys­tems.

Dave Mer­ritt told Sky News that “in­stead of see­ing a tragedy, Boris John­son saw an op­por­tu­nity.”

“And it was just such an ill-con­sid­ered in­ter­ven­tion and al­most like a knee-jerk re­ac­tion,” he said. “I think he saw an op­por­tu­nity to score some points in the elec­tion. They im­me­di­ately said, ‘Oh, this is Labour’s fault — they al­lowed this to hap­pen. They had this early re­lease pol­icy,’ and so on.”

He said the way the tragedy had been ex­ploited for po­lit­i­cal ends was “crass and in­sen­si­tive.”

He said the fam­ily had not been con­tacted by John­son or his of­fice since the at­tack, al­though John­son’s of­fice said “the PM has ex­pressed his deep­est con­do­lences to Mr. Mer­ritt for his tragic loss — an ex­pe­ri­ence no fam­ily should have to go through.”

John­son, mean­while, tried to fo­cus vot­ers on the prospect of an un­cer­tain re­sult and a di­vided Par­lia­ment, which would en­dan­ger his plan to lead Bri­tain out of the Euro­pean Union on Jan 31. All 650 seats in the House of Com­mons seats are up for grabs in the elec­tion, which is be­ing held more than two years early in a bid to break the po­lit­i­cal im­passe over Brexit.

Opinion polls give the Con­ser­va­tives a lead over Labour, but all par­ties are ner­vous about the ver­dict of a volatile elec­torate that is weary af­ter years of wran­gling over Brexit.

“Polls can be wrong,” John­son said Tues­day. “We need to be fight­ing for ev­ery vote.”

He ac­cuses Labour of of­fer­ing more “dither and de­lay” on Brexit. The op­po­si­tion party says it will ne­go­ti­ate a new di­vorce deal with the EU and then give vot­ers a choice be­tween leav­ing on those terms and re­main­ing in the bloc.

“Forty-eight hours from now, our coun­try can choose be­tween go­ing for­ward, punch­ing through the cur­rent dead­lock ... or we can re­main stuck in neu­tral,” John­son said dur­ing a visit to a con­struc­tion equip­ment fac­tory in cen­tral Eng­land, where he drove a bull­dozer through a plas­tic foam wall with “Grid­lock” writ­ten on it.

Mer­ritt’s in­ter­view was an­other late hur­dle in a cam­paign that had gone smoothly for John­son, un­til a news­pa­per ran a photo of 4-year-old Jack Wil­li­men­tBarr sleep­ing on the floor of the Leeds Gen­eral In­fir­mary as he awaited treat­ment be­cause no bed was free. The op­po­si­tion Labour Party led by Jeremy Cor­byn painted the boy’s plight as a symp­tom of Bri­tain’s ail­ing health sys­tem, which has suf­fered un­der years of Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment aus­ter­ity mea­sures.


Cy­clists pass a mo­bile anti-Brexit bill­board at Trafal­gar square in Lon­don on Tues­day.

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