Boris Johnson saw chance to ‘score points’ after London Bridge – victim’s father
Dave Merritt said the terror attack was ‘exploited’.
Boris Johnson saw an opportunity to score political points in the aftermath of the London Bridge terror attack when most people saw a tragedy, the father of one of the victims has said.
Dave Merritt’s 25-year-old son Jack died alongside Saskia Jones, 23, in the attack by Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London last month.
Mr Merritt said there had been no attempts made to contact the family from either the Prime Minister or Downing Street. He said the family had turned down a meeting with the Home Secretary.
Following the attack, Mr Johnson spoke of his anger and claimed that scrapping early release from prison would have stopped convicted terrorist Khan killing two people.
He said that because the “broken hung parliament was preoccupied with blocking Brexit”, the Government was unable to make the changes required to keep violent offenders and terrorists in jail for longer.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Merritt said: “What was required was just a dignified approach whereby the politicians would express their regrets, express their condolences to the people affected, and would then get on with campaigning in the election. It wasn’t an election issue.
“Where most of us were watching this and seeing a tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes. Instead of seeing a tragedy Boris Johnson saw an opportunity and he went on the offensive.
“He saw an opportunity to score some points in the election – he immediately said ‘oh this is Labour’s fault, they allowed this to happen, they had this early release policy’ and so on.
“At that point… well I had to say something.”
He replied: “Pretty much as you would expect. It just reinforced my views and my feelings about the way in which this situation was being exploited.
“It just struck me as being crass and insensitive and, as we’ve already said, Jack would have been extremely upset at the way in which things were developing.”
It was put to Mr Merritt that some people may say that he himself has politicised his son’s death due to not liking Boris Johnson.
“We have lost Jack. Jack can’t speak for himself anymore. Had there been no comment in the way that it was made, then I wouldn’t have said anything.
“I would have just carried on grieving and helping to support my family.
“I think the way that it happened and the fact that it was used in such a political way, and I could see the good work that Jack did and that his colleagues did starting to perhaps unravel, it was important that somebody said something.
“And that just happened to be me. And obviously my son’s been killed, people are going to listen to me.”
Mr Merritt said his son knew Khan, adding: “It makes it more unbelievable because, again, I can’t… imagine someone who had been befriended and helped by someone like Jack could then in a fairly calculating way kill them.”
Writing on Twitter, Mr Merritt also disputed claims the Conservatives had personally offered his family condolences over his son’s death.
He wrote: “Neither Boris Johnson nor anyone from No.10, Tory Central Office or anyone else has expressed their condolences towards my family since my son was killed.”
A Conservative spokesman said: “The PM has expressed his deepest condolences to Mr Merritt for his tragic loss – an experience no family should have to go through.
“The PM’s view remains it is ‘extraordinary and wrong’ that Khan had been released halfway through his prison sentence and has long argued that sentencing should be tougher for violent and extremist offenders.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the warning from Mr Merritt and called for no “knee-jerk reaction” to the tragedy.
He said: “The death of Jack is obviously terrible and David Merritt’s comments were very heartfelt.
“His son was somebody who absolutely believed in rehabilitation of prisoners and eventually was sadly killed by one that clearly had not been rehabilitated.
“The points that David Merritt was making was we have a problem in the Prison Service, the lack of probation service and all the issues that go with it, and he was concerned about knee-jerk reactions by politicians.
“Nobody ever wants this kind of disaster ever to happen again, let’s deal with it in an intelligent way, not in a knee-jerk reaction.”