Britain’s politicians resume campaigning in earnest on Friday with national security in the spotlight, as police scramble to bust a Libya-linked jihadist network thought to be behind the Manchester terror attack.
Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had suspended campaigning after Monday’s bombing at a Manchester pop concert, which killed 22 people, including many teenagers, and wounded dozens more.
Eight suspects are currently in detention on UK soil in connection with the blast, for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility, while police in Libya have detained the father and brother of 22-year-old suicide bomber Salman Abedi.
Washington’s top diplomat Rex Tillerson is due to visit London on Friday in an expression of solidarity, after Britain reacted furiously to leaks of sensitive details about the investigation to US media.
US President Donald Trump threatened to prosecute those responsible for the “deeply troubling” security breach, which has strained the close relationship between Washington and London.
At a summit of NATO allies in Brussels on Thursday, May confronted Trump over the issue, saying shared intelligence “should be kept secure,” her spokesman said.
– ‘Critical’ threat –
Monday’s bombing was the latest in a series of IS-claimed attacks in Europe that have coincided with an offensive on the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq by US, British and other Western forces.
Britain’s terror threat assessment has been hiked to “critical”, the highest level, meaning an attack is considered imminent.
Armed troops have also been sent to guard important sites, an unusual sight in mainland Britain, while armed police are now patrolling the country’s trains for the first time.
At the launch of the UK Independence Party’s manifesto on Thursday, deputy leader Suzanne Evans said May “must bear some responsibility” for the terror attack in Manchester this week due to policing budget cuts.
Opposition leader Corbyn in a speech in London later on Friday is expected to say it is the “responsibility” of governments to minimise the risk of terror by giving police the funding they need.
But analysts said that the Conservative prime minister — who previously served as interior minister for six years — could benefit at the polls from the shift in focus ahead of the general election on June 8.
“If security and terrorism become more prominent then I can only see one winner from this — Theresa May,” said Steven Fielding, a professor of politics at the University of Nottingham.
The YouGov poll also found that 41 percent of respondents said that the Conservatives would handle defence and security best, compared to 18 percent who said the same of Labour.