The dad of a victim of the London Bridge attack has slammed the PM for going “on the offensive” and using the atrocity to bolster his general election campaign.
Dave Merritt, whose son Jack, 25, was killed, accused Boris Johnson of exploiting the tragedy.
Mr Merritt said: “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’.
“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.”
Jack was stabbed to death on November 29 by convicted terrorist Usman Khan. Khan was automatically released halfway through a 16-year jail term, under laws introduced by a Labour government.
Mr Johnson claimed that scrapping the early release from prison rules would have prevented the attack, but the Tories have not changed the laws despite being in power since 2010.
Jack, from Cambridge, died alongside fellow Cambridge graduate Saskia Jones, 23, in the attack during an event at Fishmongers’ Hall.
Khan, who was shot dead by police at the scene, was released on licence in 2018 after serving eight years in jail for plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange. Mr Johnson blamed the “broken, hung Parliament” which “was preoccupied with blocking Brexit ” for the Government being unable to make the changes required to keep violent offenders and terrorists in jail for longer.
Mr Merritt’s stunning intervention came two days before the polls open, and it is the latest attack on the PM’s character.
Mr Johnson was this week accused of heartlessness after initially refusing to look at a picture of a four-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor.
Mr Merritt also revealed that no one from No10 tried to contact his family after Jack’s death. They were instead offered a meeting with the Home Secretary. He told Sky News: “The only contact we had was that the police liaison officer said to us, ‘I’ve been asked if you’d like to meet Priti Patel, for her to express her condolences’. We just said, ‘No, thank you’.”
Asked if he found the PM’s behaviour offensive he said: “I did, I did. There was no reference to us, there was no attempt to contact us and discuss this with us or anybody else as far as I know.”
Jack was a course co-ordinator for Learning Together, a prisoner rehabilitation programme run by Cambridge University, which was holding an event at Fishmongers’ Hall on the day of the attack. Khan was a guest at the event.
Mr Merritt said that his son had helped Khan, adding: “I can’t imagine how someone who had been befriended and helped by someone like Jack could then, in a fairly calculated way, kill them.
“The only person responsible for what he did is him [Khan]. I’m not going to start lashing out and saying, ‘Somebody should have stopped this, somebody must be responsible for this’.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said of Mr Merritt yesterday: “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.”
A Conservative spokesman said: “The PM has expressed his deepest condolences to Mr Merritt. 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.”
Mr Merritt, fighting back tears, told how his “very privileged”, well-educated son grew up in a financially comfortable home. He said Jack “could see the contrast between how he had experienced life and how these prisoners had experienced their lives… and he felt very lucky”.
The grieving father said he first learned of the terror attack from Twitter but “didn’t know Jack was at London Bridge that day”. He said: “I didn’t think much of it other than, ‘Oh no, there’s been another attack, how terrible’”.
But when he arrived home that day, his wife told him Jack may have been injured. He said: “She was just beside herself saying, ‘We’ve got to go to London. Jack has been involved in this incident at London Bridge’.
“She said, ‘Leanne [Jack’s girlfriend] has phoned me and she’s been contacted by somebody and we think he’s been stabbed’.” They eventually found out that Jack been pronounced dead at the scene.
Dave said: “The police told us that the paramedics attending had fought to save him but weren’t successful.”
When it was suggested that Mr Merritt could be accused of politicising his son’s death due to a dislike of the PM, he said: “If anybody has a right to say something about this situation then it’s me and his family. We have lost Jack. Jack can’t speak for himself any more.
“Had there been no comment [by the PM] 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 unravel – it was important that somebody said something, and that just happened to be me. My son’s been killed – people are going to listen to me.”
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