The leaders

Johnson, Corbyn pause election activities after attack

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, flanked by Home Secretary Priti Patel and City of London Police Commissioner Ian Dyson, arriving yesterday at the scene of the attack on London Bridge. Mr Johnson cancelled his election activities yesterday so he
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, flanked by Home Secretary Priti Patel and City of London Police Commissioner Ian Dyson, arriving yesterday at the scene of the attack on London Bridge. Mr Johnson cancelled his election activities yesterday so he could focus on a security response.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The terror attack on Friday, just 13 days before an election that could decide the fate of Britain's exit from the European Union, prompted political leaders to pause election activities in the capital for the rest of the day.

But campaigning must go on soon after "as a statement against those who wish to attack our democracy", Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed in a phone conversation after the incident, according to a read-out of their chat.

Mr Johnson, who has called a snap election for Dec 12, broke away from campaigning after the attack to rush back to Downing Street for a briefing.

His team said he also cancelled his events yesterday so he could focus on a security response.

While it is "vital that we show respect to the victims, to their families", campaigning will not be suspended for good, Mr Johnson told reporters on Friday.

"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."

Mr Corbyn in a statement stressed the need to "remain united across all our communities".

"We cannot let our democratic process be derailed by acts of terror," he added.

Still, the attack will provide political ammunition in a heated election. The revelation that the attacker is a convicted terrorist out early on conditional release is likely to put pressure on the ruling Conservatives to explain why he was allowed out of jail.

 
 
 
 

Already, Mr Johnson has flagged his pledge to hire extra police officers - one of his key campaign promises - while Labour, which trails the ruling Conservatives in opinion polls, has criticised the government's record on crime.

"There are big questions that need to be answered," London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the most senior opposition politician in Britain in a position of power, told Sky News.

"One of the important tools judges had when it came to dealing with dangerous, convicted criminals... was their ability to give an indeterminate sentence to protect the public," he said.

"(That) was taken away from them by this government."

During the last general election in 2017, the campaign was interrupted by two terrorist attacks - one of them a van and knife attack on London Bridge that killed eight people - which both of the main political parties attempted to capitalise on.

Labour attacked the Conservatives for cutting police numbers, and the Conservatives attacked Labour leadership for what they said were sympathies for anti-Western militants.

In the wake of the 2017 attack, United States President Donald Trump triggered a diplomatic row when he criticised Mr Khan over his response. The President is set to arrive in Britain next week for a Nato summit.

The White House condemned the London Bridge attack and pledged "full support to our ally, the United Kingdom".

White House spokesman Judd Deere said: "President Trump is... monitoring the situation."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 01, 2019, with the headline 'Johnson, Corbyn pause election activities after attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe