Belfast Telegraph

Tories target Jeremy Corbyn's security record as polls suggest Labour advance

The Tories and Labour have clashed after senior Conservatives claimed Jeremy Corbyn would pose a security risk if he enters Number 10 after the General Election.

The direct assault on Mr Corbyn's record came as further polls suggested Labour was eating into Theresa May's lead as the June 8 General Election approaches.

The Tories released a video showing the Labour leader boasting about opposing anti-terror legislation and dodging questions over whether he would condemn the IRA.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd suggested victory for Mr Corbyn would "absolutely" increase the risk of future atrocities.

Mr Corbyn said he has been vocal in opposing "executive control orders that are not subject to judicial oversight" as he defended his previous voting record on anti-terror measures.

Appearing on ITV's Peston On Sunday, Mr Corbyn said: "I do support work with the police and our security services on intelligence-led actions."

On Saturday, Mr Corbyn had made his strongest attempt yet to distance himself from the IRA, saying he was "appalled" by the terror gang's 1991 mortar attack on Downing Street and stressed the bombing campaign was "compl etely wrong because it was taking civilian lives".

On Peston On Sunday, Mr Corbyn insisted he had not "spoken to the IRA" but had met " former prisoners who have told me they were not in the IRA".

He said " we could give credit to all those - unionists and republicans" who were involved in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

Mr Corbyn's ally, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also tried to distance herself from claims she had supported the IRA in the 1980s, saying: "It was 34 years ago, I had a rather splendid afro at the time. I don't have the same hairstyle, I don't have the same views."

On the BBC's Andrew Marr Show she also insisted her opposition to MI5 had ended since the 1980s: "It has since been reformed and of course I would not call for its abolition now."

Labour would recruit an additional 1,000 staff to the security and intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to help in the battle against extremist violence.

Denouncing the Tories' traditional claim on the mantle of the "party of law and order", Mr Corbyn said Conservative-led governments had slashed numbers of police, border guards and emergency workers.

He said: "Ensuring the safety of our communities demands properly resourced action across many fronts.

"It means upholding and enforcing our individual rights, promoting community relations, supporting our emergency services, tackling and preventing crime and protecting us from danger, including threats of terror and violence."

Ms Rudd told The Mail On Sunday: " I spend two hours every day signing security warrants.

"The only thing Corbyn would sign is our security away. He'd be a disaster."

Asked if she was suggesting the prospect of Mr Corbyn in Downing Street meant an increased risk of atrocities, she stressed that she was not linking it to the Manchester bomb, but added: "It absolutely does, yes."

Pressed on the issue on the Andrew Marr Show she added: "I would say look at the evidence.

"The evidence is that Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott and John McDonnell have all a history of not supporting terrorist legislation."

In a swipe at Ms Abbott she added: "I have changed my hairstyle a few times in 34 years as well, but I have not changed my view about how we keep the British public safe."

The row over security in the wake of the Manchester Arena suicide bombing came as:

:: A clutch of General Election polls showed the Tory lead over Labour shrinking, with one new poll by ORB for the Sunday Telegraph putting Mrs May's party just six points clear, and another by YouGov for the Sunday Times recording the gap as seven points.

:: The Sunday Times reported that "nervous" Tories were planning a relaunch of their campaign, focusing on the choice between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn to lead Britain's Brexit negotiations with the EU.

:: Mrs May revealed details of a new Commission for Countering Extremism which she will set up if she wins the election, with a remit to help government identify policies to defeat extremism and promote "pluralistic" values.

Polls in the Sunday newspapers gave Tories leads of between six and 14 points.

The surveys found support for Tories ranging between 43% and 46% and for Labour between 32% and 38%, with Liberal Democrats trailing on 7%-9%.

Security minister Ben Wallace dismissed Labour's plans to boost intelligence services, saying it would simply produce "James Bonds who would be licensed to do absolutely nothing".

He told Pienaar's Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live: "There is no point having lots of police with no powers.

"I mean Jeremy Corbyn would produce James Bonds who would be licensed to do absolutely nothing and police officers with one arm tied behind their back. We have given them powers."

Mr Wallace rejected suggestions military personnel had been sent onto the streets due to a shortage of armed officers, saying the move was "a protective shield" to free up police from static postings such as the Palace of Westminster.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "Families across the country today watching Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn account for a lifetime of sympathy for terrorism will be appalled."

In a message on Facebook he said: "U nless you vote for Theresa May and her Conservative team, Jeremy Corbyn will be your prime minister and Diane Abbott will be your home secretary 11 days from now."

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