UKIP’s leader has been spreading a false claim that water cannon could be used against pro-Brexit protesters today.
Gerard Batten is accused of promoting “lies” and “stoking tensions” after making the claim, which is provably untrue, on Twitter.
The UKIP leader tweeted ahead of staging a rally in London today, which will host far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson.
He wrote last night: “There are reports that water cannon may be deployed tomorrow in London, & that some of the police may try to aggregate and provoke Brexiteers.”
He added: “I hope it is not true but I call on everyone present to be peaceful.
But a Metropolitan Police spokesman told the Mirror the claim is “completely false”.
The force does not own any water cannon after it sold three units, bought by Boris Johnson when he was London mayor, for scrap in November at a 97% loss.
More importantly, the use of water cannon in Britain was blocked in 2015 by then-Home Secretary Theresa May, who warned the crowd control devices could cause spinal fractures and make people go blind.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed there has been no change to the legal status of water cannon in Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) since Mrs May’s 2015 block on the devices.
And a Scotland Yard source branded Mr Batten’s claim “rubbish”.
Mr Batten could reasonably be expected to know all this – because he’s been the MEP for London, where the Met Police is based and the row earned huge publicity, for 15 years.
Mr Batten did not state in his tweet where he had heard his “reports”.
The Mirror has contacted UKIP for comment.
Labour MP Stephen Doughty, a member of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “It is simply shameful and dangerous to further whip up tensions on our streets at a time when we need to come together and find a way forward.
“UKIP’s leadership are a shameful far-right rabble using Brexit for much more sinister purposes.”
Twitter user Dan Hett tweeted at Mr Batten: “There are reports you’re a dog-whistling racist s***bag using literal demonstrable lies to stoke tensions between communities in order to cling on to the negligible sliver of power you still have.
“You’re an absolute disgrace.”
The Met Police tweeted: “Those reports are indisputably false.”