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Boris Johnson cancels speech after five protesters turn up

Tory officials claim public appearance abandoned on police advice 

Richard A. L. Williams,Benjamin Kentish
Friday 06 December 2019 15:14 GMT
Boris Johnson cancels speech after five protesters turn up

Boris Johnson has cancelled a speech to members of the public in Rochester after a small number of protesters turned up.

The prime minister was due to give a stump address to Tory supporters near the Ye Arrow pub in the Kent town.

A small number of protesters - which The Independent counted at five - also arrived holding signs which read “Tories out”, “Austerity killed over 130,000, the blood is on your hands” and “No to racism, no to Boris Johnson”.

Conservative officials claimed the speech had been cancelled on police advice after the late running of the event prompted security concerns.

They said "security officials" had voiced worries about some members of the crowd, and were wary of members of the public being aware of the prime minister’s planned location so far in advance of his arrival.

Ahead of the visit, the handful of protesters mingled among the roughly 50 Tory activists, plus several Conservative MPs.

The crowd grew as Mr Johnson’s scheduled arrival neared, and police moved the protesters outside the small pub car park where he had been due to speak.

It soon emerged that the PM was delayed, and Tory officials were seen holding close discussions with Mr Johnson’s security team.

News then followed that the event had been cancelled entirely, prompting the assembled activists, journalists and members of the public to disperse.

Mr Johnson had earlier held a rally near Maidstone, where he will face Jeremy Corbyn in a head-to-head TV debate this evening.

It comes after the PM abandoned a campaign visit to a bakery in Somerset last month as Extinction Rebellion protesters gathered outside.

He has prompted a barrage of accusations he is systematically avoiding scrutiny after apparently refusing to be interviewed by the BBC's Andrew Neil before the general election next week, despite all the other main party leaders having done so.

And it also emerged on Friday he had rejected a series of requests by ITV to be interviewed by Julie Etchingham.

A Conservative source said: "Logistical reasons meant that today's visit was severely delayed. The delay meant that additional security concerns presented themselves which then made the visit impossible."

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