Politics resumes in wake of terror in London
The stakes could not be higher, the mix more febrile. A UK election campaign in its final days. The third UK terrorist attack in three months. Which party is catching the mood of the nation?
22:07. The area to the south of London Bridge is a hub of joy and merriment. Pubs and restaurants are full and noisy. A normal Saturday night in the British capital.
22:16. Three terrorists are shot dead by police. In between, eight minutes of death, mayhem, gunfire and terror.
London was under attack. A van drove over London Bridge, hitting pedestrians at 50mph. When it crashed, out jumped three knife-wielding attackers.
They started attacking people and headed to nearby Borough Market. Witnesses reported how they stabbed people in pubs and restaurants in the market, shouting “This is for Allah”.
One man told how people launched chairs and pint glasses at the three men as they attempted to enter a pub.
One off-duty policeman attempted to tackle all three assailants. He is now in hospital and in a stable condition. The attackers were shot dead by armed officers outside The Wheatsheaf pub.
Seven people were killed and 48 injured. At the time of going to press, most have not been named.
Police and intelligence services worked overnight to unpick what happened. Yesterday morning, police raided a flat in Barking, East London, making 12 arrests.
Speaking on the steps of 10 Downing Street Theresa May said that “things need to change”. The major parties have suspended national election campaigning. The vote on Thursday will not be postponed.
The attack took place during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. At the start of the month, ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi exhorted his followers to “turn the nights of the unbelievers into days, to wreck havoc in their land and make their blood flow as rivers”.
There are around 3,000 known jihadists in Britain, many of whom have returned from fighting with ISIS. A further 20,000 individuals pose a “residual risk”.
The security services are constantly working to disrupt their plans; but the low-tech nature of many of these attacks makes it almost impossible to stop them all.
How to react? The main rivals in the current general election yesterday had a different focus.
A question of emphasis
For Theresa May, prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, it was the “evil ideology of Islamic extremism”. Watched by millions all over the world on the steps of 10 Downing Street she said “defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time”.
For Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, it was resources. As soon as campaigning was resumed at 7pm last night he said: “You cannot protect the public on the cheap. The police and security services must get the resources they need, not 20,000 police cuts. Theresa May was warned by the Police Federation but she accused them of crying wolf.”
- Is this essentially about police resources?
- Will the conflict with Islamist terrorism ever be resolved?
- Write down what you believe to be the three most important reasons these terrorist attacks happen. Explain your choices.
- The second link in Become An Expert includes Theresa May’s four-point plan to deal with the threat of Islamist terrorism. Write a 500 word analysis on the effect you expect it to have.
Some People Say...
“We harbour those who hate us, tolerate those who threaten us and indulge those who weaken us.”Margaret Thatcher, shortly after 9/11.
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- At the time of publishing, we know that three men were involved in a terrorist attack that took place on London Bridge and at Borough Market on Saturday night. Seven people have died, as well as the three attackers, while 48 are injured, 21 critically. This is the third terrorist attack in the UK In 2017, following the attack outside the Houses of Parliament in March and the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena last Monday.
- What do we not know?
- We do not know whether the attackers were acting alone, or whether they were part of a larger network. It has not yet been confirmed whether they were known to the security services. We do not know whether this will affect the outcome of the general election, and if it does, who it would benefit.
- London Bridge
- London Bridge is one of the city’s oldest bridges, dividing the borough of Southwark from the City of London — the financial centre. It is also the name of a major railway station that connects London with Kent and Sussex. The area is known for its pubs, restaurants and nightlife and is overlooked by The Shard — Western Europe’s tallest building.
- Police officers fired 50 rounds at the attackers — an unprecedented number, according to the Metropolitan Police. The attackers were wearing fake suicide vests in an attempt to create greater fear.
- East Ham and Barking
- The stretch of East London from the edges of the City of London out to Barking is one of the most heavily Muslim populated areas of Britain.
- Major parties
- UKIP was the one exception, with the party’s leader Paul Nuttall saying he would “refuse to suspend campaigning because that is precisely what the extremists would want us to do”.
- Ramadan this year started on May 26th and will end on June 24th. During Ramadan, adult Muslims are required not to eat, drink or smoke from dawn until dusk.