By Inês Linhares Dias
Over the past three months, Britain has fallen victim to three terrorist attacks, the last two of which came right before the general elections and might influence the results.
In the aftermath of the last of these attacks Theresa May has said that “enough is enough” and has enumerated the four ways in which counter-terrorism action will have to unveil from now on.
The prime minister’s suggestions to tackle the threat include fighting extremist ideologies through the preservation of British values; working alongside other ally nations to regulate the cyberspace; tackling extremism in British society; and reviewing Britain’s current counter-terrorism strategies.
There have been, however, several criticisms regarding both May’s capitalizing on these events, as both Corbyn and Farron have accused her of breaking election rules with the “enough is enough” statement, and her action as Home Secretary and, later on, as prime-minister.
Among those who have voiced concerns are Labour’s leader, but also members of the police that say the cuts on policing that were imposed during May’s mandate as Home Secretary threaten the authorities’ ability to protect the public.
Talking to Sky News, ex-London MET Police Officer Peter Kirkham said that the government is lying about the number of armed police officers on the street and explained that: “We are here talking about extra police officers on the street…
They’re not extra. They are officers that have had their rare leave days cancelled, they’ve had their twelve-hour shifts that have now been routinely extended to sixteen hours, they are being drawn from other areas (…) they are not extra police officers at all. They’re from other duties and they are being burned down.”
When asked if he would back the call for Theresa May’s resignation on an interview to Sky News, Corbyn replied “indeed I would, because there’s been calls made by a lot of very responsible people on this who are very worried that she was at the Home Office for all this time, presided over these cuts in police numbers and is now saying that we have a problem – yes, we do have a problem, we should never have cut the police numbers.”
He then continued to rectify his answer by saying that the people of Britain should vote for the MPs and a new government would be formed as a result.
But he did accuse the prime minister of attempting to “protect the public on the cheap”.
Corbyn was also under strain when he was questioned during the debate by a member of the audience about his links to the IRA, but his response over the importance of talking to all sides seems to have resonated with the press.
Despite the accusations directed at the prime-minister, several studies suggest that conservative parties tend to perform better than liberal parties in elections following terrorist attacks, even though the co-relation between the incidents and electoral results is not easy to prove. Even so, these studies cannot predict what will happen on the British elections and if the attacks will even have any effect on the results.
But the attacks raised security issues and gave it more prominence that was not being given before. A recent poll shows that terrorism is the second most important issue for Britons, right after healthcare.
And although it is not clear how it may impact the result of the elections, the attacks have already disturbed the campaign, with all parties suspending their campaigning actions after the Manchester attacks. The same measure was adopted after the London attacks, but this time Ukip refused to suspend its actions, a decision Paul Nuttall defended by saying it would be “precisely what the extremists would want us to do”.
Regardless of any potential impact, the elections will go on despite of any attempt to disturb the democratic process.