Police were urged to improve security for the prime minister after a man on Monday ran up to David Cameron and came within inches of him before being bundled away.
Security experts said the incident amounted to a breach of security and was of concern given the heightened alert over the terrorist threat facing the UK. The man’s mother late on Monday claimed it was a misunderstanding that happened as her son jogged to the gym.
In the bizarre incident, Dean Balboa Farley ran towards the prime minister as he left an event in Leeds. It was not clear from video footage if there was any contact between the two men. Farley was arrested and released soon after, with police accepting his story that he had accidentally bumped into Cameron’s entourage. Scotland Yard, which is responsible for the prime minister’s protection, has said it will carry out a review.
Farley later wrote on his Facebook page: “So I’m all over the news as ‘the protester that attacked David Cameron in Leeds’. Yeah, if you call brushing into someone while running, then getting assaulted by half a dozen coppers in suits attacking.”
Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Commons home affairs committee, said the man should not have been allowed to get so close to the prime minister, especially at a time of heightened alert. He cited last week’s attack on Canada’s parliament, during which prime minister Stephen Harper was forced to take refuge in a cupboard as a gunman prowled the building. Vaz said of the Leeds incident: “We are lucky this gentleman did not mean him [Cameron] harm. They need to review security and lessons need to be learned.”
One former Scotland Yard protection officer of 20 years service told the Guardian: “This is an embarrassing breach. There is no challenge [to the man]. The PM sees the individual before those colleagues who should have.” He added that part of the problem might be that Cameron and his aides had asked for less intrusive security.
Later in the Commons, Cameron said: “Could I put on the record for once the debt I owe to the close protection teams that look after me and the very good job that they do?”
Making light of the incident, he added: “John Prescott was in the room as I gave the speech, so as I left the room, I thought the moment of maximum danger had probably passed.”
The incident for some had potential serious implications, but also had an element of bathos.
Mr Farley’s mother said : “I’ve spoken to Dean. He’s very upset by the whole situation. It’s all a misunderstanding. He was just jogging to the gym.”
Witness Chris Wilson described how Cameron deftly avoided the jogger: “It looked like Cameron sidestepped him. It was a lovely little move. He should be on the stage, really.
“And then he was tackled by the person behind. And then he [Cameron] was in the car and the car was gone. They were on him. They were like flies around poo.”
The statement from Scotland Yard announcing a review of the incident followed criticism from MPs and repeated replays of the incident on TV news channels and news websites. Mark Pritchard, Tory MP for the Wrekin, demanded a full investigation into how the Met security team allowed the man to get so close to the prime minister.
“The Met police have some of the best close protection officers in the world,” said Pritchard. “However, this was a clear breach of security and could have been far more sinister in outcome. With the terror threat level increased, this cannot be allowed to happen again.” Farley told BBC Radio 5 Live he was on his way to the gym to meet his personal trainer as he does nearly every lunchtime. He said: “I ran across the road and, for all I saw, a bunch of men in suits came out of the side of the Civic Hall.
“I dodged in and out and around and the next thing I know I’ve got a half dozen suited men haranguing me and manhandling me to the floor. The whole while I’m asking them, ‘What’s going on? Who are you?’.
He went on: “I didn’t see David Cameron. I didn’t know it was David Cameron until they let me out of the police van an hour later and told me what I’d actually done.
“I gathered I’d run into somebody quite important, but I couldn’t know it was David Cameron. It begs the question, how good is Cameron’s security if I managed to run between it before they stopped me?”
Farley said he had no identification on him because he was going to the gym and his towel was wrapped around his hand, which the officers might have mistakenly believed was a weapon.