After the briefest of pauses in electioneering, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain found her record on security and terrorism under scrutiny on Monday, in the aftermath of a deadly attack in London over the weekend — the third serious terrorist episode in the country in three months.
Before she replaced David Cameron as prime minister last year, Mrs. May was responsible for security during her six years as home secretary. And opposition politicians are highlighting reductions in the number of police officers, including those who are armed, during her tenure.
“The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has said that the Met is well resourced, and they are; and that they have very powerful counterterrorism capabilities, and they do,” Mrs. May said at a news conference, where she also came to the defense of Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who was mocked by President Trump over his response to the attack. “We have protected counterterrorism policing budgets. We have also provided funding for an increase in the number of armed police officers.”
The focus on terrorism would normally be expected to help the prospects of Mrs. May’s Conservative Party in the general election that will take place on Thursday, but her years overseeing counterterrorism policy represent a political problem, one that has been highlighted even by her former political allies.
“I am so sick of Theresa May blaming others for terror when the system she presided over has obviously failed so lamentably,” Steve Hilton, once a close adviser to Mr. Cameron, wrote on Twitter. Mrs. May, he added in a separate tweet, “should be resigning, not seeking re-election.”
Asked by a reporter on Monday if he would support calls for Mrs. May’s resignation over the falling number of police officers, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, replied, “Indeed, I would.”
The main political parties suspended campaigning on Sunday as a sign of respect for the seven people killed and the scores wounded when three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge on Saturday night and then stabbed people in Borough Market nearby.
As campaigning resumed around the country on Monday, the police continued to investigate associates of the assailants, whose identities are known to the police but have not been made public because the inquiry is continuing.
Twelve people were arrested in Barking, in East London, on Sunday, although one, a 55-year-old man, was released without charges. Early Monday, the police raided two other homes in East London, one in Newham and the other in Barking.
The victims of the attack are believed to have come from several countries, but only one has been identified publicly: The premier of British Columbia in Canada, Christy Clark, confirmed the death of Christine Archibald.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Stephen Castle