Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that there has been “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the United Kingdom, and vowed to step up the fight against Islamist terrorism after the London Bridge attack.
“Enough is enough,” she said.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street following a meeting of the government security committee, May said internet companies must not allow extremism a place to exist, but added that there was also a need to tackle “safe spaces in the real world,” which would require “difficult” conversations.
The prime minister also said she would support increased prison terms for terrorism offenses, even relatively minor ones.
Recent attacks in London and Manchester were linked by Islamist extremism, May said.
“It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth,” she said. “Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time. But it cannot be defeated through military intervention alone.”
She continued: “It is time to say enough is enough. Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would. Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values. But when it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change.”
May said the recent wave of attacks showed the United Kingdom was “experiencing a new trend in the threat we face.”
She continued: “As terrorism breeds terrorism and perpetrators are inspired to attack, not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots after years of planning and training, and not even as lone attackers radicalized online, but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.”
Action was needed in the United Kingdom as well as overseas, she added. “While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.
“So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations.
“But the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism, and we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities but as one truly United Kingdom.”
Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory work and pensions secretary and former leader of the Conservative Party, told the World this Weekend that May would probably try to toughen up terrorism, prevention, and investigation measures — known as TPIMs. These are the measures introduced by the government of David Cameron to place restrictions on people who are suspected of being terrorists but who have not been convicted of an offense.
Duncan Smith said that was one of the things May was alluding to when she spoke about toughening anti-terror laws.
Asked by the interviewer on The World This Weekend whether TPIMs meant internment, he replied: “I don’t think that is what is on the table. But I think what is on the table is a much tighter view about the way we got about this TPIM stuff. One of the things that I was concerned about in coalition – I know Theresa May was when she was home secretary – was during the coalition the TPIM order that we brought in, which gives those powers, was watered down. And I think it was weakened too much.”
Foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, a former London’s mayor, also said attitudes had to change, saying: “The wells of tolerance are running empty.”
Johnson urged Londoners to “carry on with business as usual”, but said: “To those who sympathize or encourage or harbor or aid or abet these killers – in any way – we say enough is enough. Your time is up.”
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, said security services did not believe the attackers were part of a wider plot, which is why the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) had not advised raising the national alert level.
Rudd told ITV’s Peston on Sunday show: “We don’t believe there are additional elements which could be carrying on the attack we saw last night – JTAC, rather, has made that assessment, so they haven’t recommended going to critical.”
May confirmed that Thursday election would not be postponed, saying: “Violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process. So those campaigns will resume in full tomorrow and the general election will go ahead as planned on Thursday.
“As a country our response must be, as it has always been, when we have been confronted by violence we must come together. We must pull together. And united, we will take on and defeat our enemies.”
She praised the “great courage and great speed” of the police and of other emergency services. “On behalf of the people of London and on behalf of the whole country, I want to thank and pay tribute to the professionalism and bravery of the police and the emergency services, and the courage of members of the public who defended themselves and others from the attackers,” she said.
The Guardian reports that the Conservatives, Labor, Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National party, and Greens has all suspended their campaign activities until Monday in the wake of the attack.
UKIP, however, said it would not follow suit. The party’s leader, Paul Nuttall, said such an action would be “precisely what the extremists would want us to do.”
Rudd said the police works on the assumption that the three attackers were “radical Islamist terrorists.” and authorities needed “to find out more about where this radicalization came from.”
She said she could not comment on whether any of the attackers were previously known to authorities. “The operation is ongoing so we are finding out more about who these three are,” she said.