Boris Johnson won't take the knee as he doesn’t ‘believe in gestures’ and claims police officers were ‘bullied’ into it by Black Lives Matter
Boris Johnson said he would not take the knee in support of Black Lives Matter (PA)
Boris Johnson has reopened the row over politicians “taking the knee” in support for Black Lives Matter by suggesting police officers who did so were “bullied” into it by protesters.
And the Prime Minister suggested he would not perform the act himself, saying he doesn’t “believe in gestures”.
Mr Johnson was quizzed by presenter LBC Nick Ferrari on whether he would take the knee, the symbol against racial injustice performed by sportspeople, politicians and demonstrators in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in America.
The PM said: “I don't believe in gestures, I believe in substance. I believe in doing things that make a practical difference.
"And if you look at what this government has done over the last few years, or what I did when I was running this city, I massively increased for instance, black representation of black minority ethnic representation in the Metropolitan Police, we increased the proportion of recruits, we had an active programme to accelerate promotion for great black police officers.
“And I want to see that happen across the country.”
He added: “And that's what I want to see. I'd rather see a story of championing success and talking about the opportunities that we can open for younger people - that’s what I'd much rather work on.”
Mr Johnson was pressed on whether he would follow the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who did take the knee, or his deputy the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who sparked controversy by saying he would not and describing the gesture as one of "subjugation".
“I don't want people to be bullied into doing things that they don't necessarily want to do”, Mr Johnson said.
“If you think what happened with those police officers standing at the cenotaph, where they were being insulted in really quite aggressive terms by some members of the crowd and told to take the knee.
“And some of them did. And it was very difficult then for the others who didn’t.”
Mr Johnson was also grilled by a member of the public about the lack of black representation in his Cabinet, saying he accepts “we can do more and we will do more”.
Hinting he will move to rectify the situation in an upcoming reshuffle of his senior ministers, he added: “I'm not going to hide it. I think about this a lot and, and it's something I want to get right and I'm conscious that, you know, we need to reflect the country we serve.”