Priti Patel has denied that she was hypocritical for going on a work trip away from London after criticising social media influencers for using work as an excuse to travel.
The home secretary defended the decision to leave London for a meet and greet with police officers, saying it was part of her “statutory duties”.
She said it was wrong to compare her journey to Hertfordshire and Boris Johnson’s trip to Scotland during the pandemic with travel made by influencers.
Patel had claimed they were travelling as an excuse to go on holiday.
She spent just over an hour in Bishop’s Stortford, where she met six new recruits, a chief constable, neighbourhood beat officers and local Tory MP Julie Marson.
During her walk around town, she was joined by two dozen police, aides, close protection officers and media, telling reporters: “It’s quite busy round here, or is it just us?”
Asked whether she was heeding government advice to act like she had the virus, Patel said: “We are here in a Covid-compliant setting … of course a national requirement is to stay at home.
“I’m obviously out here working, our police officers are out here working day in day out, as I am as well as part of that national coronavirus effort.”
Patel said there was a clear distinction between the work of politicians, and that of influencers.
She said: “First and foremost, in our capacity with statutory duties and responsibilities we have, we are clearly working.
“But clearly when it comes to influencers travelling to Dubai there is no guarantee.
“As I said in Parliament yesterday, people should not be using excuses such as to travel overseas to also go on holiday.”
She added: “It seems too many influencers and others – when you see them on social media – they might be posing, beaches, etc, but that cannot be deemed essential at a time of global pandemic.”
Patel said she “fundamentally disagreed” with the suggestion that there was no real difference between travelling away from their constituencies as she and the prime minister had done, and an influencer travelling abroad for their work.
She said: “The prime minister and I have statutory duties and responsibilities in terms of our work with government as ministers of the crown and as public servants.
“That’s why you see the prime minister every single day working as hard as he does, and why you see me out today with our new police recruits.”