Last night, three men armed only with knives and a white van carried out an attack on pedestrians at the south end of London Bridge, and then in the Borough Market area. There are many pubs and restaurants in the vicinity; all would have been busy on what was a warm Summer Saturday evening. Seven people lost their lives. It could have been many more, but for the swift Police response.
That response came so swiftly that eight minutes after the authorities had been alerted, all three attackers had been shot dead. The attack was over. But there were still injured parties to care for, bystanders to evacuate. Many lives had experienced the nasty jolt of crude terrorism. It was the third terrorist incident in less than three months, and the second in London. General Election campaigning has been paused until this evening.
And yet, and yet … political parties may have put their campaigns on hold, but the thought has already entered with many observers that there is a question screaming at us. These attacks are, increasingly, getting through, and there have for a number of years now been warnings about cuts to Police numbers, and especially to reductions in community Policing. Theresa May was confronted over the latter two years ago.
Moreover, as the Mirror has told, should the Tories win next Thursday, there would be more Police cuts in the five years to 2022. Nigel Nelson’s article explains “The cuts would begin to bite next year as 43 forces face a £332million funding shortfall which will continue year on year until 2022 … There are currently 122,859 police officers in England and Wales … The projected losses of 16,732 would bring that down to 106,127, below the 1978 levels of 106,732”. That is despite large increases in the overall population.
Theresa May this morning chaired a COBRA meeting, as is usual after such an attack, and she has come out and spoken about the length of terror-related sentences. I hate to have to point this out to the Prime Minister, but that is stuff all use after the event. We need a restoration of the community policing that, under her watch, has been decimated.
Only then can the collection and co-ordination of intelligence give the law enforcement authorities and security agencies the fullest picture of what is going on out there. Those same authorities were warned about Salman Abedi, the Manchester attacker, several times, but if their resources will not stretch to cover all those who should be under surveillance, some of them will be missed - and they will get through.
It also seems that Abedi was allowed to come and go between Britain and Libya - on the watch of the then Home Secretary … Theresa May. National political campaigning may have been suspended until this evening, but when the whole machine cranks up again, the finger will inevitably be pointed at the PM. And it will be no use her bleating “look over there at the Web”, or saying we’ll crack down by issuing longer sentences.
Staying alive beyond making their attacks does not appear to be part of the attackers’ modus operandi. So tougher sentences are irrelevant. We need more cops - and Theresa May is hell bent on going in the other direction. I’ll just leave that one there.