Mayor Boris Johnson has agreed to be blasted by water cannon to justify the purchase of the riot hardware. The Home Office has not yet authorized the use of water cannon on the UK mainland, but Johnson is confident the purchase is $365,000 well spent.
Johnson’s decision to give the go-ahead for the purchase of three secondhand water cannons has prompted accusations of arrogance and recklessness as their use has not yet been sanctioned on the UK mainland. Metropolitan Police have submitted an application to the Home Office asking for authorization. Northern Ireland is currently the only place in the UK where the use of the cannons is sanctioned.
In a bid to convince the British public of the safety of the riot gear, Johnson agreed to be blasted by water cannon as a gesture of good faith in an interview with LBC Radio’s Nick Ferrari.
When his interviewer initially asked him if he would be willing to take a hit to prove the cannon’s safety, Johnson tried to joke it off asking, “What do we wear? How far away do we have to stand?”
But in the end he said he would rise to the challenge and test out the anti-riot device.
A document posted on the mayor's policing and crime website
states claims “purchasing at this time considerably improves
the possibility that the Metropolitan Police would have the tool
to deploy in the summer.” It adds that such tools “are
most likely to be needed” in spite of the fact “there are no
expectations of violence.”
The mayor’s office also maintains that buying the secondhand cannons now will save huge amounts of money and avoid commissioning new ones. The three cannons will cost 218,000 pounds (US$365,000) and will be purchased from Germany.
“The saving represented by this purchase is so significant as to justify the risk caused by the delay in the licensing process,” said the document.
However, politicians and critics have argued this is not significant justification for the purchase of mainland Britain’s first water cannons. Green party politician Jenny Jones slammed the decision as “idiocy” and accused Boris Johnson of letting his arrogance get the better of him.
— Jenny Jones (@GreenJennyJones) June 10, 2014
"Pre-empting the home secretary's decision is rash and smacks of arrogance on the mayor's part, not to mention a possible waste of taxpayers' money at a time when the Met is making huge cuts,” she told the Guardian newspaper, adding that “98 percent” of people were opposed to the idea.
Labour London Assembly member Joanne McCartney said the move was “deeply concerning” and “reckless” especially given that 20 out of 25 assembly members voted against the purchase of the cannons earlier this year.
“I’m deeply concerned that the mayor is rushing the purchase of water cannon without a proper public debate. There is still confusion over the reasons behind the purchase of water cannon and exactly how the process of their deployment will work,” she said in a statement.
Senior police officers have also voiced their opposition to the purchase, saying there are no grounds for the use of water cannons in the UK.
"There is no intelligence to suggest that there is an increased likelihood of serious disorder," said the Association of Chief Police Officers to the Guardian.