In shadow of deadly attacks, British
election campaign resumes
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[June 05, 2017]
By Andy Bruce and Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) - After militants killed
seven people and injured 48 in London, British Prime Minister Theresa
May resumes campaigning on Monday just three days before a national
election which polls show is much tighter than previously predicted.
May said Britain must be tougher in stamping out Islamist extremism
after three knife-wielding assailants rammed a van into pedestrians on
London Bridge and stabbed others nearby.
Following the third militant attack in Britain in less than three
months, May said Thursday's election would go ahead and that Britain had
been far too tolerant of extremism.
"Violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process," May,
who served as interior minister from 2010 to 2016, said outside her
Downing Street office on Sunday.
Islamic State, which is losing territory in Syria and Iraq to an
offensive backed by a U.S.-led coalition, said its militants were
responsible for the attack, though it is unclear what links the
attackers had to the group.
London police chief Cressida Dick said that while some of the recent
attacks in Britain had international links, they had a largely domestic
center of gravity.
May said the three recent attacks, which have claimed at least 34 lives,
are not thought to be connected.
But she said Britain was under threat from a new breed of crude copycat
militants who might not have spent years plotting or even been
Deadly attacks by Islamist militants in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin,
Manchester and London over recent years have shocked Europeans already
anxious over security challenges from mass immigration and pockets of
domestic Islamist radicalism.
In an early morning raids in east London, British counter-terrorism
police detained more people on Monday. Police arrested 12 people in the
Barking district of east London following the attack, though one was
Police have not released the names of the attackers and British
newspapers refrained from identifying the men.
"This has been a truly ghastly few weeks," said London police chief
Dick, who said the spell of recent attacks was unprecedented in her
working experience which began in 1983.
May was due to chair a meeting of the government's emergency response
committee on Monday.
SHADOW OF ATTACKS
It was not immediately clear how the attack would impact the election,
though the issue of security has been thrust to the forefront of the
campaign after the London Bridge and Manchester attacks.
The campaign was suspended for several days last month when a suicide
bomber killed 22 people at a concert by U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande in
Grande gave an emotional performance on Sunday at a benefit gig in the
city for the victims of the attack, singing with a choir of local
schoolchildren, including some who had been at her show.
Before the London Bridge attack, May's gamble on a June 8 snap election
had been thrust into doubt after polls showed her Conservative Party's
lead had collapsed in recent weeks.
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Commuters rush past a City of London police officer standing on
London Bridge after is was reopened following an attack which left 7
people dead and dozens of injured in central London, Britain, June
5, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
While British pollsters all predict May will win the most seats in
Thursday's election, they have given an array of different numbers
for how big her win will be, ranging from a landslide victory to a
much more slender win without a majority.
Some polls indicate the election could be close, possibly throwing
Britain into political deadlock just days before formal Brexit talks
with the European Union are due to begin on June 19.
May called the snap election in a bid to strengthen her hand in
negotiations on Britain's exit from the European Union, to win more
time to deal with the impact of the divorce and to strengthen her
grip on the Conservative Party.
If she fails to beat handsomely the 12-seat majority her predecessor
David Cameron won in 2015, her electoral gamble will have failed and
her authority will be undermined both inside the Conservative Party
and at talks with 27 other EU leaders.
May said the series of attacks were not connected in terms of
planning and execution, but were inspired by what she called a
"single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism" that represented a
perversion of Islam and of the truth.
But as a former interior minister, May's record on security is also
under scrutiny - police numbers were reduced every year under her
watch and as Home Secretary she oversaw the domestic intelligence
While she was interior minister, police numbers decreased every
year. In March 2016 there were 124,066 police officers in England
and Wales compared to 1443,734 in March 2010.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticized May for cutting
police numbers and repeated his pledge to recruit 10,000 new police
officers, including armed officers.
"The mass murderers who brought terror to our streets in London and
Manchester want our election to be halted. They want democracy
halted," Corbyn said in Carlisle, northern England.
"They want their violence to overwhelm our right to vote in a fair
and peaceful election and to go about our lives freely."
(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Angus MacSwan and Andrew Heavens)
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