LONDON • UK Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May said that Brexit negotiators in Brussels would celebrate an election win for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and “think Christmas had come early”.
Three days before June 8 elections, May used a speech in central London to double down on her central campaign message that her rival is incapable of negotiating the UK’s divorce from the European Union (EU) in talks due to start June 19, less than two weeks after Britons vote.
“He seems to think that any deal — no matter what the price, no matter what the terms — is better than no deal,” May said. “That’s not leadership. That’s an abdication of leadership.”
In the aftermath of Saturday’s terror attacks in central London, Corbyn and May have been trading blows over who has the worst record on countering terrorism, a theme that threatened to overshadow Brexit in the final stretch of the campaign.
Corbyn said May should resign over the police cuts carried out while she was home secretary.
The PM’s 20-point lead has shrunk as the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London have turned attention from Brexit to security. The pound fell in early trading yesterday and then rebounded, as investors pay closer attention to the tightening race.
May said Corbyn opposed “every single counter-terror law” she introduced as home secretary and failed to support the police policy of “shoot to kill” that was vital to saving lives on Saturday.
“That’s not leadership,” May said. “It’s a failure to meet even the minimum requirement of thejobofPM—tokeepour country safe.”
Saturday night’s London Bridge attack, which killed seven people and injured almost 50 more, temporarily halted campaigning. But the political truce broke down within hours as Labour and May’s Conservatives went on the offensive.
Campaigning in the northern town of Middlesbrough, Corbyn explained why May should step down, or at least deserved to lose the election.
“There have 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 those cuts in police numbers,” Corbyn said. “We’ve got an election on Thursday and that’s perhaps the best opportunity to deal with this.”
On May’s watch as home secretary, the number of police officers in England and Wales declined by about 15%. Home Office figures show London has lost some 1,750 officers since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
Meanwhile, May said she thought US President Donald Trump was “wrong” to attack London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the wake of Saturday’s terror attack in London.
After avoiding several attempts by reporters to get her to condemn the US president for openly criticising Khan in a series of tweets hours after the attack at London Bridge, May was asked what it would take for her to criticise Trump. She reiterated her disappointment over his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, before being eventually forced to defend the capital’s mayor.
“Khan is doing a good job,” she told a press conference in central London, when asked if Trump was wrong to attack the mayor’s call for calm in the wake of the attacks. “It’s wrong to say anything else.”
May has been attacked by both the Opposition Labour Party and the media for her reluctance to publicly criticise Trump. As well as mocking Khan, Trump sought to turn the London attacks to domestic
political advantage by renewing his call to ban travel from some Muslim-majority countries. May’s criticism yesterday follows her openly complaining last month about US security agencies leaking details of the Manchester Arena suicide bombing.
While she used her disapproval of Trump pulling out of the Paris accord to illustrate that she was “not afraid to say when President Trump gets things wrong”, her name was notably absent from a joint statement last week by her European counterparts condemning the withdrawal. — Bloomberg