As the UK General Election draws closer, we are moments away from making one of the most important decisions regarding Britain’s future. This election will impact generations to come as not only will we be deciding upon a leader to negotiate Brexit terms, but also one who will combat the horrific threat of terrorism the UK has been facing.
In the past three months, the UK has been hit with three terror attacks. The first attack was in Westminster on 22nd March where a terrorist killed five people using knives and a hired car. The second attack on 22nd May in Manchester resulted in the murder of twenty-two people with 116 being injured in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena. The most recent attack hit the capital on Saturday night where, in an attack similar to the one in Westminster, three terrorists killed eight people and injured more than 50 using a hired van and knives.
“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan have criticised the Conservatives and said that future cuts to the police are unsustainable and could make it harder to foil terror attacks.”
Unfortunately, instead of seeking to pull together and address the pressing issue of terrorism, political parties have used this narrative to score political goals in a last-minute attempt to capture more voters before the election. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan have criticised the Conservatives and said that future cuts to the police are unsustainable and could make it harder to foil terror attacks. However, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, an additional 1,500 firearms officers will be trained and recruited by April 2018 following the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. Since 2015, the Government has also provided funding for an increase in the number of armed police officers with Prime Minister Theresa May stating that counter-terrorism policing budgets have been protected and funding has been provided for an additional 1,900 intelligence officers.
Prime Minister May has also spoken out at the hypocrisy of Labour’s statement regarding policing cuts as Jeremy Corbyn himself has in the past been boastful of his opposition to anti-terror legislation ever since he first entered Parliament in 1983. In an interview in November 2015, three days after the attack in Paris, Corbyn said that he was “not happy with shoot to kill policy in general” and that it “can be dangerous and counterproductive”. He has later U-turned on this and said that he supported the right of the police to use “whatever force is necessary”. If elected, Labour pledges to recruit 10,000 more police officers to work community beats, 1,000 more security and intelligence agency staff and 500 more border guards. In comparison, the Liberal Democrats have said that £300m would be set aside for community policing and all front-line officers would be required to wear body cameras on duty.
On Monday’s BBC Newsnight, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron was criticised over his party’s commitment to rolling back surveillance power, their opposition to internet censorship and cracking down on the use of encryption to hide sensitive information. On the other side of the spectrum, Prime Minister May has said that she will change human rights laws if they prevent the UK’s fight against terrorism. This statement came after one of the London Bridge terrorists, Pakistani born Khuram Butt, appeared on a TV documentary and was reported to a counter-terror hotline.
In addition to choosing a leader based on our preferred way to tackle terrorism and extremism, the UK will also have to decide on how best we should leave the European Union, the main reason why an election was called in the first place. Prime Minister May has declared that if the EU were to punish the UK for leaving by giving us a bad deal, her Government would not be willing to accept it as “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The Labour Party on the other hand, have stated that walking away from the EU negotiations with no deal wasn’t an option. Whilst both Conservatives and Labour have accepted the nation’s decision to leave the EU, the Liberal Democrats if elected, would have a second referendum on the Brexit deal which will also give people the option to remain in the EU. This has been criticised as not respecting the democratic decision reached by the referendum to leave the EU.
All three parties have expressed their desire to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, and Britons living in Europe. Whilst the Conservatives had said that Brexit must mean controlling of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe, Labour have not given a target number of migration levels. The Conservatives would give both Houses of Parliament the option to vote on a final deal on Brexit and Labour have said that they would give MPs a decisive vote on what will happen next.
After a tumultuous election campaign, the world eagerly awaits to see which leader will take the UK forward in tackling the new face of terrorism and its historical decision to leave the EU. Whilst Prime Minister May had called the election to secure a bigger majority for her government, the opinion polls haven’t always been in her favour, with some of them predicting a narrow win for the Conservatives. As we have seen with Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory, the opinion polls aren’t always correct and ultimately the only poll that matters is the results on Thursday 8th June.