NEWS

Boris Johnson's Response To Question About Firefighter Cuts Returns To Haunt Him

15/06/2017 10:43 PM AEST | Updated 15/06/2017 10:43 PM AEST

Boris Johnson is being reminded he once told a Labour politician to “get stuffed” for daring to ask about cuts to the London Fire Brigade (LFB), in the wake of the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze.

The fire has killed at least 17 people and police expect the death toll to rise. Hundreds have been left homeless and many remain missing, with firefighters saying they do not expect to find any more survivors.

Firefighters were at the scene within minutes and worked long shifts to save as many as they could from the burning 24-storey tower.

But the capital lost 600 firefighter jobs and 10 fire stations while Johnson was London Mayor.

LFB data later showed response times had risen in more than half of London’s wards, which Labour blamed on Johnson’s cuts.

In 2013, then-London Mayor Johnson was asked about the cut while under questioning from London Assembly members at City Hall.

Labour Assembly Member Andrew Dinsmore asked him: “How can cutting fire stations, cutting fire engines, cutting firefighters posts not be a reduction in fire coverage?”

Boris said efforts to “reduce deaths from fire and continuing to reduce the incidents of fire” would offset the impact of the cuts.

Dinsmore said: “You’ve lied to the people of London in your election.”

Johnson then said: “Oh, get stuffed.”

He was then forced to withdraw the remark and apologise.

The clip began circulating after the Grenfell fire, with anger growing after Johnson, now foreign secretary, tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone caught up in the horrific towerblock fire in London.”

Labour MP Grahame Morris tweeted that 10 stations had closed when Johnson was mayor.

Outspoken LBC host James O’Brien said of the clip: “I’ve spent my whole life being a trusting, naive little boy, thinking the people in charge would somehow deep down have our best interests at heart.

“Surely no one would actually turn a flat full of poor people into a potential bonfire, just to save a few quid or make the view better for the rich neighbours over the road.

“I didn’t think that level of cynicism exists.

“Then I saw this man sitting in this studio and thought ‘God, it really is a game for some people’.”

People felt Johnson’s thoughts and prayer might not be enough.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday suggested Tory austerity and council cuts could be partly to blame for the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

The Labour leader said that while the immediate priority was on the rescue effort, questions had to be asked about spending on safety.

“If you cut local authority expenditure then the price is paid somehow,” he said in a pooled TV clip.

His comments were echoed by Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, a former fire minister and firefighter, who declared that “the finger is pointing at Government” over the tower blaze.

Prime Minister Theresa May this morning ordered a full public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster.

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