In the wake of the London terrorist attack

Published by Chris Oestereich on

I’m not going to talk about the London terrorist attack, at least not directly. Too many people will take care of that in other places. But given that I’m in the middle of a book on UK politics, and the country is just days away from national elections, I thought I should take a look at reactions as while the campaigns have officially stopped (except UKIP’s!), some machinations have not.

Theresa May made an announcement today stating that the Tories would “not be campaigning out of respect for the victims.” At the same announcement, she unveiled her new 4-point plan for addressing terrorism.

PM May’s response to the London terrorist attack

1. She says terrorism won’t be defeated by “military intervention alone,” or “the maintenance of a permanent defensive counter-terrorism operation, however skillful its leaders and practitioners.” Instead, she says the UK needs to “turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values – pluralistic British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

2. PM May wants to monitor the Internet, saying that the UK needs to”work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.”

3. She also wants to ramp up efforts to “identify and stamp out” extremism as she says “there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.” I don’t see the tolerance of extremism happening, but her party has been in control of the UK government since 2010, so maybe a look inward is due if one’s needed. To this Owen Jones reminds us that Theresa May was the UK Home Secretary for six years before becoming Prime Minister. And James Melville called her out for having cut emergency and security services while she was in that role.

Peter Kirkham, a former Senior Investigating Officer for the Met, did not mince words in his response to the attack in what he saw as an enabling force provided by the UK government’s funding cuts.

Back in 2015, while still the Home Secretary, Theresa May chided police for “scaremongering” the UK public over the cuts she had imposed (The UK has 20,000 fewer police officers than it had in 2010.) for their suggestion that it would lead to paramilitary-style policing (video). In late May 2017, the warnings came true as “soldiers were drafted in to free up armed police officers.”

Labour have pledged to add 10,000 police officers if they take control of the government. Secretary Rudd was recently asked about their commitment. When given the chance to commit to not cutting any additional officers from the police force she deferred. She then claimed that Labour has “no reputation on looking after security at all.”

The day before the attack, Boris Johnson took to Twitter for a bit of terror-based fear-mongering.

But in 2015, while he was still Mayor of London, Johnson urged PM Cameron to end police cuts. His pleading went unrequited.

4. PM May cites the increasingly complex nature of terrorism in suggesting that police may be given broader authority and that longer sentences for “terrorist-related offences – even apparently less serious offences” were on the table.

A shameful tactic

Back around the time when the UK was just kicking off the Article 50 process, PM May threatened to cut anti-terrorism cooperation with the rest of the EU in a reckless effort to gain an advantage in the Brexit negotiations. I only hope she’s seen the folly of that maneuver, if not for the full mess she’s in.

While we’re on the subject, it’s been over two months since PM May triggered Article 50. From that day, the UK had two years to successfully negotiate and approve a new deal with the EU. Those negotiations will finally start in two weeks. The EU was set to begin those negotiations right away, but the Tory government pushed the official announcement back a few weeks which killed forced the EU negotiators to scuttle their initial meetings. Here we are.

Closing thought

Author William Gibson closes the book on the day.