Candidates clash as terror attack reshapes election
LONDON — Britain’s political leaders sparred Sunday over responsibility for the early release of a convicted extremist who launched a stabbing attack in central London that left two dead and injured three.
After a pause out of respect for victims, Friday’s attack is dominating the political scene as the Dec. 12 election nears, shifting the focus, at least for the moment, from Brexit and the National Health Service to issues of security and criminal justice.
The argument centers over the early release from prison of Usman Khan, who served roughly half his sentence before being set free. He was able to stab five people before being shot dead by police despite conditions imposed on his release that were supposed to protect public safety.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, portraying himself as tough on crime, blamed Khan’s freedom on changes in sentencing rules made by the last Labor Party government before Johnson’s Conservatives took power in 2010. He promised to toughen sentencing laws.
“I think it is repulsive that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years and that’s why we are going to change the law,” he said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
Marr repeatedly challenged the prime minister by pointing out that the Conservatives had been in power for nearly a decade and did not take any steps to change the situation Johnson was complaining about.
The Ministry of Justice has begun an urgent review of cases like Khan’s that might pose a threat, including a review of the conditions governing the movements of every convicted terrorist who has been released from prison.
Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of trying to provide security “on the cheap” and said he doesn’t necessarily agree that all terrorist prisoners should be required to serve their full terms. He said it depends on the circumstances and called for the Parole Board and the probation service to be more actively involved.
Johnson’s Conservatives quickly tried to capitalize on Corbyn’s statement. The party tweeted a promise — “We will change the law so terrorists serve every single day of their sentence” — along with a warning about Corbyn’s opposition to this plan.
“Who do you trust to keep you safe?” it asks.