Tory MPs demand apology from Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner

A war of words has broken out between Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and the county’s Tory MPs over the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis.

By Fiona Finch
Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 4:30 pm

This week eight of the county's MPs demanded an apology from Labour PCC Clive Grunshaw after he criticised the Government in a personal Facebook post.

The MPs said Mr Grunshaw’s comments had been “ill-judged and reckless”.

Eleven days ago Mr Grunshaw had claimed: “They chose a herd immunity strategy (Boris Johnson’s “take it on the chin” strategy!) allowing people to catch the disease and die in such numbers that eventually those surviving would have immunity. Callously accepting that this would kill many elderly and vulnerable people.”

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Clive Grunshaw said his comments were made in a personal capacity not in his role as Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner

Those calling for an apology and condemning Mr Grunshaw’s comments as “political point scoring” included South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher, Fylde MP Mark Menzies, Morcambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris, Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard and Blackpool South MP Scott Benton. They said his comments were “plainly wrong, reckless and completely inappropriate for a person occupying a position of public trust”.

The MPs continued: “The current Coronavirus pandemic is presenting an unprecedented challenge for the UK and the entire world. This is not a time for political point scoring and thinly veiled campaign activities. It is absolutely imperative that politicians of all parties put their differences aside and work together to ensure that our health service and our economy gets whatever support it needs to protect people in these difficult times.”

But an unrepentant Mr Grunshaw replied: ““Firstly, no Conservative MP has contacted me regarding this issue ... their aim is simply to intimidate and silence any opposition voice.

I posted personal comments highlighting very real concerns about the Government’s strategy in dealing with this crisis. Let’s be clear, we do not have a government of national unity, we have decisions made by a select few people. At the time of my post we also had no sittings in Parliament and no effective opportunity for scrutiny. Now Parliament has returned that will hopefully change."

Katherine Fletcher, Conservative MP for South Ribble is among the MPs demanding an apology from Mr Grunshaw

He continued: “It was a personal post rather than one from my position as Lancashire’s PCC but I do recognise that there is certain influence and privilege that comes with the role. Part of this is to have a platform to speak out for ordinary people if I believe it can influence change to ensure that Lancashire is a better and safer place to live. That isn’t necessarily party political, it is my personal view and part of my commitment.”

In their joint statement the Conservative MPs said: “It is right that the Government is scrutinised on decisions that are currently being taken and we welcome the way in which opposition MPs in Parliament have worked alongside the government in a constructive manner. There is no such thing as a perfect crisis response and we recognise lessons are being learned as the United Kingdom tackles the most significant peacetime challenge it has ever faced.

“The comments from our local Police and Crime Commissioner however, are completely unacceptable and inappropriate from a person holding a position of public trust ... Such inflammatory comments undermine trust in politics and sow the seeds of division and mistrust at a time when we should all be working together in the national interest.”

Mr Grunshaw, who had argued that: "the government started on the wrong path and have become lost and confused”, added: “If I’ve learned one thing as Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner it is that being timid and sitting on the fence doesn’t get us anywhere. Being tenacious and standing up for Lancashire is the only way to carry out my job. I will always work cross-party if it delivers what we need for Lancashire but I reserve the right to speak out if it does not. In a free society we should sometimes expect scrutiny and different viewpoints.”