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Parties step back from election campaigning after London terror attack

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn were understood to have spoken by phone following the incident.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Richard Wheeler, Harriet Line and Sophie Morris, PA Political Staff

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have insisted the country must not be intimidated by the London Bridge terror attack, as they took a step back from General Election campaigning.

The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats cancelled campaign events after two people were killed by a terrorist during the knife rampage.

Prime Minister Mr Johnson was due to campaign in the capital on Saturday, but is understood to have cancelled his planned events following the attack.

Labour has scrapped an “NHS summit” which was due to be held in Yorkshire, and the Liberal Democrats will no longer go ahead with their Stop Brexit rally in London.

Both Labour and the Tories cancelled campaigning in the capital on Friday evening, and Mr Johnson and Labour leader Mr Corbyn were understood to have spoken by phone following the incident.

Mr Corbyn is expected to resume his campaign schedule on Saturday afternoon.

Several people were stabbed by the knifeman before he was grappled to the ground and disarmed by members of the public on London Bridge. He was shot dead by police.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed two people died, and three others were injured.

Mr Johnson told reporters: “I think it’s very important that in a democracy we continue to get on with the democratic process, and I think it’s vital that we show respect to the victims, to their families, and certainly we’ve acknowledged that, and campaigning has been suspended and the opposition parties have also suspended campaigning in London.

“But I think it’s very important in a democracy that we are not bowed and we are not intimidated by terrorism, and that we get on with the normal democratic processes, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Security minister Brandon Lewis refused to say whether the attack by convicted terrorist Usman Khan showed a “failure” by authorities.

Mr Lewis repeatedly refused to comment on the specifics of the incident, but said that more assessment was needed of the sentences given to violent criminals.

“We take what action we need to do and we believe is right under the advice of the police and look at all of the lessons learned from any case as quickly as we can to ensure people’s safety,” he told Sky News.

When asked how Khan, who pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism in 2012 and was on licence from prison at the time of the incident, was able to arm himself and launch the attack, Mr Lewis said it would be “inappropriate and dangerous” to speculate on the issue.

He added that although the UK terror threat level had been recently reduced from “severe” to “substantial”, there had been “no change in the posture and the work” of police and counter-terrorism forces.

Mr Lewis said the Government wants to move “very swiftly” in its review of sentencing for violent crimes following the attack.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Lewis said: “Police funding for counter-terrorism policing has consistently increased since 2015.

“As have counter-terrorism police numbers.”

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn said: “We will not be cowed by those who threaten us. We must and we will stand together to reject hatred and division.”

Politicians also used a seven-way election debate on the BBC to pay tribute to the emergency services and the public for their response to the attack.

The debate dealt with Brexit, the economy, the NHS and immigration, among other issues, although neither Mr Johnson nor Mr Corbyn were present.

Police numbers were also raised in the aftermath of the attack, with Treasury minister Rishi Sunak insisting the Tories would be “investing in our police” and giving them the “resources and powers” they need.

For Labour, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “This was an extreme event but we can’t ignore that over recent years, certainly the last five years, we’ve seen increases in violent crime right across the country.

“At the same time since 2010, we’ve seen over 20,000 police officers cut from frontline services, so it’s right to recognise that that would have a direct impact and of course we’ve got to invest more in community neighbourhood policing.”

Ms Long-Bailey added there is a need to invest in counter-terrorism measures and to ensure they are “properly funded”.

Ahead of the debate, Mr Johnson told Brexit supporters they must vote Tory to prevent a “hung, broken Parliament” that cannot deliver their desires, as he attempted to shift the election focus back on to the EU.

The PM vowed on Friday that he would get the UK out of the bloc by January 31, “no ifs, no buts”, by bringing his deal back before Parliament before Christmas.

PA

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