BORIS Johnson claims “bully boy” protesters in Bolton are to blame after he was forced to cancel his visit to the town amid security concerns.

In an exclusive interview with The Bolton News, the Prime Minister claims Labour are resorting to “intimidation” as the election approaches - something his rivals strenuously deny.

Boris Johnson was due to meet voters in a walkabout in Bolton on Saturday afternoon, but after a number of delays the visit was scrapped due to ‘security concerns’ as protesters lined the streets.

The activists were embroiled in a scuffle in Market Street later that day and the police were called to reports of an assault.

The Prime Minister told The Bolton News: “I just feel it’s very sad that on the one hand people call for a kinder, gentler politics, and on the other hand, they encourage their supporters to employ bully boy tactics to stop people being able to make visits and to champion local business and to support local people.

“I was not surprised because I have seen a lot of it over this campaign. It shows that they just want to distract from the emptiness of their campaign at the moment, they don’t have anything to say on Brexit and how to get Brexit done.

“I thought it was a great shame, we should have a politics where people can make visits and talk to voters, communicate with local business and celebrate local business without the risk of rowdy and aggressive disturbances.”

The Bolton News spoke to Labour supporters at the scene on Saturday afternoon, they stressed that they were peacefully demonstrating. A Labour campaign source added: “We hope that all parties will support the democratic process, and the right for people to peacefully protest against the cuts inflicted on our society under a decade of Tory austerity.”

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When asked about allegations that Conservative Party supporters have themselves contributed to battle-hardened politics, the Prime Minister said: “I’m afraid to say that’s absolute nonsense. I’ve been doing a lot of campaign in the last couple of months and I don’t believe the Conservative supporters ever turn out, demonstrate and shout angry slogans at other candidates or throw things or try to stop people going into shops.

“I do think Labour have run out of things to say, so they are resorting to intimidation because they have got nothing to say on Brexit and nothing to say on the big issues of the day.

“We’re a one nation party, we want to invest massively in the NHS, we’re going to rebuild North Manchester general hospital. We’re putting many more police on the streets in the Greater Manchester area and in Bolton. We want to take the whole country forward and it’s just very frustrating.”

The Conservative leader was due to appear on Westhoughton’s high street alongside Bolton West Tory candidate Chris Green at 12.30pm on Saturday afternoon. But with a group of protesters lining the streets, Conservative Party officials say the police advised them to scrap the visit.

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Tensions then rose in Market Street, the protesters are understood to have made their way to Westhoughton Market. Traders say they began ‘forcing’ their way in and the market went into lockdown, the doors being closed to the Labour campaigners outside.

Mr Green hit out at “repugnant Labour activists”. In a video posted on Twitter filmed inside the market, he said: “Some activists are trying to hammer down the door to the market.

“People have businesses to run here and they have ruined their market day today.”

In the skirmish, it is understood that a woman became trapped between the doors of the market as they closed, with witnesses saying she was being pushed out by people inside the market.

A Labour campaign source said: “We are shocked that a 64-year-old nurse and Labour activist has been assaulted today. A report has been filed with the police.”

After the tensions died down, supporters and opposers alike were left disappointed as their hopes of putting their questions and concerns to the man vying to continue his premiership were dashed.

Cake maker Kelly Diggle-Hillman, who decorated cupcakes with Boris’ face for the visit, was among the business owners expecting a visit from the Prime Minister. She said: “We’re just disheartened and a bit let down. The protesters have spoiled it for the small businesses of Westhoughton. It would have been so good for the businesses and it’s just been ruined by these people who probably aren’t even from the area, don’t shop here and don’t spend here.”

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Lifelong Labour voters were just as keen to have a meeting with the leader to express their opposition. Hoping to challenge Mr Johnson on austerity cuts which have seen public services slashed was resident Sylvie Foster. She said: “We had everything in Westhoughton, we used to have our own police station, our own clinics, you name it. Now we have nothing.”

The Prime Minister will undoubtedly be appearing time and again as the election approaches. But for now, the only sight people in Westhoughton caught of him was his face on top of a cake.

See tomorrow for the second part of our exclusive interview with the Prime Minister.