Nick Clegg accused of getting too emotional in row about tree chopping

Written by David Singleton on 22 December 2016 in Diary

The ex-Lib Dem leader has clashed with South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner.

Nick Clegg has been accused of undermining the police service in Yorkshire by using "emotive language" and uttering "nonsense".

The former deputy prime minister was criticised by South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner for his opposition to Sheffield city council’s controversial tree-felling programme.

The council recently courted controversy for a dawn tree-chopping operation, during which two women in their 70s were arrested for trying to prevent trees on their road from being felled. Clegg then intervened in the row with an article in the Sheffield Star.

He wrote: “In scenes you would expect to see in Putin’s Russia, rather than a Sheffield suburb, council contractors and police descended on Rustlings Road under the cover of darkness, dragged people out of bed to move their cars and detained peaceful protesters – all to chop down eight trees.”

Labour police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings has now made it clear that he is unimpressed with the former deputy prime minister’s tone.

Responding to a series of written questions from a Liberal Democrat councillor, Billings said: "To speak about ‘a premeditated ambush’ is not helpful and seems designed to heighten emotions in a quite gratuitous fashion. This emotive language was also employed by the MP for Hallam, Nick Clegg, when he spoke about people being ‘dragged from their beds’ by the police.

"This undermines trust in the police service and I hope he will think twice before uttering such nonsense in the future."

Billings added in a later statement: "I have said before that I do not believe the police should have been put in a position where they were drawn into the operation on Rustlings Road. Equally, I do not think it is very responsible to use the kind of emotional and exaggerated language that has been used with respect to police involvement."

Campaigners claim 4,000 trees across the city have been chopped down since a PFI deal was signed with contractor Amey in 2012. The council has apologised for the dawn raid, but it has argued that most of the trees earmarked for felling are either diseased or dangerous.




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