Theresa May has announced that Britain’s general election will go ahead as planned on Thursday in spite of Saturday’s terrorist attack in London, saying: “Violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process.”
The prime minister announced on the steps of Number 10 that the main political parties would resume normal election campaigning on Monday, although national events on Sunday had been cancelled out of respect for the victims of the attack.
All election campaigning was suspended for four days after the terrorist bombing of the Manchester Arena on May 22, but Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, have agreed to a shorter pause after the latest attack.
David Davis, Brexit secretary, said any delay would require legislation and that parliament, dissolved last month, “no longer exists”. He said the election date was “locked in” but that in any case it was right for democracy to continue.
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said: “The very thing we should be doing is continuing with our election.”
The last time an election was postponed was in 2001 after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease made normal movement in rural areas impossible. Tony Blair delayed the poll by a month.
It remains to be seen what political impact, if any, the London Bridge attack will have on a general election where Mrs May’s opinion poll lead has been narrowing in recent weeks.
Anthony Wells of the pollsters YouGov said after the Manchester attack that voters did not normally consider terrorism or security as a big factor in deciding their vote, but such atrocities might push the issue higher up their agenda.
Mrs May, who spent six years as home secretary, was widely viewed at the start of the campaign as a resolute and strong national leader but that perception has weakened in the course of the last few weeks.
Both her personal ratings and the Conservative headline poll figures have dropped consistently during the campaign, although she is still widely expected to win the election comfortably.
The Manchester attack appeared to make little difference to that trend, in spite of Conservative and media attempts to present Mr Corbyn as being soft on terrorism.
Overnight, politicians expressed their anger but also their determination that normal life should continue.
Sadiq Khan, London mayor, said: “There aren’t words to describe the grief and anger our city is feeling. I’m appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists deliberately targeted innocent Londoners and visitors enjoying their Saturday night.
“I condemn unequivocally these terrorists in the strongest possible terms. They are evil cowards and London will never be cowed. We will never let them win.”
Mr Corbyn, called the incidents “brutal and shocking”, adding that his thoughts were with the victims and their families. Several world leaders have expressed their outrage over the attack.
US President Donald Trump spoke to Mrs May overnight and sent two tweets as news of the attack broke, the first of which made no direct reference to the events in London but appeared to allude to them: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban [from several Muslim-majority countries] as an extra level of safety!”
Mr Trump subsequently tweeted: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U.K., we will be there — WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”