Boris hosed down: London Mayor Johnson’s riot control water cannons denied license

Reuters / Paul McErlane
​Home Secretary Theresa May has withheld approval for three crowd control water cannons bought by London Mayor Boris Johnson at a cost of over £200,000.

According to The Guardian, a government source said a decision on licensing would be delayed until after the general election in May.

The cannons were purchased second-hand from Germany in a move backed by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.

Hogan-Howe had said he wanted the option of water cannons for public order operations following the riots of 2011, but the Home Office decision has led to fears they may never be used.

Critics of the scheme have applauded the decision not to issue licenses.

READ MORE: Water cannons arrive in London for potential Met deployment

Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones, who had previously attacked the acquisition as “idiocy,” told The Guardian: “I am delighted that the home secretary has seen sense and will not be approving water cannon.

The mayor’s decision to buy these weapons in advance of the home secretary’s approval was rash and arrogant, and a waste of public money … [The] water cannon is an indiscriminate military weapon that has no place on our streets.

A mayoral spokesperson told the paper: “Independent polling shows that the majority of Londoners support the police having water cannon at their disposal for use in exceptional circumstances.

The mayor has made his position clear and awaits the home secretary’s licensing decision.

Having arrived last summer, the water cannons have been undergoing adaption and refitting.

Prior to their reaching the UK, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg questioned whether water cannons were “the answer to policing the streets of London.

READ MORE: ‘You can test it on me’: London mayor buys England’s first water cannons

He pointed out that water cannons, which are meant for dispersing densely packed crowds, seemed tactically inappropriate for instances of civil unrest like those seen in 2011.

The idea that in the riots, where people are scurrying down small streets smashing windows and then rushing off – small groups moving around in a very fluid situation – the idea that great big lumbering second-hand German water cannons are somehow going to be wheeled out and sort it out is, I think, fanciful.

In June 2014, Johnson tried to convince the British public of the safety of the riot gear by offering to be blasted by water cannon as a gesture of good faith during an interview with LBC Radio’s Nick Ferrari.

However, that public spectacle has yet to take place, as Johnson has not been shot by the as-yet unlicensed water cannons.