After the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester, security has become the most crucial issue of the 8 June general election since it will ultimately shape the public’s view and undecided voters’ opinion on Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

The BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, tweeted that, on Tuesday (6/6/2017), while the Tories would want to focus on Brexit and Labour on winter allowance cuts, the only matter that would remain on everybody’s mind is that of security. In her analysis on BBC, Kuenssberg said that “the demand of who can keep the country safe is firmly on the table” in this “strange election.”

Police Cuts

One of the big issues that has been discussed the last couple of days, is that of police cuts. Today, for example, police cuts continue to be the main subject, along with London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s criticism.

Jeremy Corbyn also criticised Theresa May and her government over the fall in police numbers. The Labour leader said that the PM “presided” over a 18,991 drop in police numbers while she was home secretary (12 May 2010-13 July 2016) and joined those calling for her resignation after the London bridge attack. Labour accused May for "letting austerity damage her ability to keep us safe."

Corbyn wants to re-shape public opinion about him being soft on security or unpatriotic. May, for example, has repeated that she backs shoot-to-kill powers, whereas Corbyn is generally weak on security and opposes anti-terror law. In an interview, after Corbyn’s call for her to resign over police cuts, she said: “I’ve been willing to introduce new powers for the police, I support shoot to kill, Jeremy Corbyn has been very clear that he has opposed every piece of anti-terrorism legislation, he doesn’t support shoot to kill.” 

Corbyn has been critical of May for ignoring “repeated warnings” not to cut police numbers, despite May arguing that she had protected counter-terror numbers and was currently funding for an increase in the number of armed officers." After a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee, she said: “We have protected counter-terrorism policing budgets, we have also provided funding for an increase in the number of armed police officers and, since 2015, we have protected overall police budgets – and that’s despite the fact that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in the House of Commons suggested that police budgets could be cut. But it’s also about the powers that we give to the police. We have given increased powers to the police to be able to deal with terrorists – powers which Jeremy Corbyn has boasted he has always opposed.”

Labour mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also warned about further cuts to the Met police which will make things more difficult when dealing with terror attacks. He told the BBC that if Theresa May was re-elected, we would have fewer police officers and that “Fewer police officers mean we are in more danger.” "One of the first things that I did as mayor of London was to approve a further 600 armed officers as I recognise that having a significant number of armed officers is one of the ways of preventing terrorists causing further harm to our city," Khan said. 

 Boris Johnson, however, argued that police numbers “remained high” and insisted that everybody knows that when he was mayor he managed to “keep police numbers high.” "We are investing in counter-terrorism," and are putting more armed officers on the streets, the foreign secretary said, adding that he wants "a government that supports those people." He congratulated the police on Saturday, by saying: "When you look at what the police did on Saturday night, not only getting to the scene so quickly but dispatching those scumbags within eight minutes, most people would pay tribute to the work of armed officers."

Peter Kirkham, a former senior officer with the metropolitan police told Sky News on Sunday that, “The police service is in crisis as a result of the cuts.” He added: “They’re being dragged from pillar to post. We hear talk of extra police officers on the street. They’re not extra, they’re officers that have had their rare leave days cancelled, they’ve had their 12-hour shifts that are now done routinely extended into 16 hours.”

According to the Guardian, “[t]he number of police officers in England and Wales fell from a peak of 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2016. The number of specialist armed police officers fell from a peak of 6,796 in 2010 to 5,639 in 2016.”

But May has reiterated that “nothing is more important than keeping our country safe” and that the most important question, isn’t the numbers or resources, when it comes to the police, but whether they have the right powers to fight terrorism.

Speaking at a general election campaign event, May said that “What government needs to do, and what the government that comes in after Thursday’s election needs to be willing to do, is to give more powers to the police and security service when they need them, needs to deal with this issue of terrorism and extremism online and also needs to be able to call out extremism here in the United Kingdom.”