Boris Johnson to keep focus on public security

By Patrick Daly, PA

Boris Johnson is looking to keep security front and centre of the election campaign with the focus on ramping up measures to protect the public from terror attacks.

The Prime Minister will be holed up for much of the day in a hotel near Watford in an attempt to build bridges between a fracturing Nato, with US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron at loggerheads over the role of the international defence alliance.

While Mr Johnson is expected to find time amid the talks at The Grove hotel to hit the campaign trail, he has attempted to make sure the Tory agenda on security will continue to be pushed, issuing a promise to increase safety measures at public venues.

The Tory Party leader has faced scorn from the family of Jack Merritt – the 25-year-old, who, along with 23-year-old Saskia Jones, was stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event on Friday. Mr Johnson was criticised for allegedly politicising Mr Merritt’s death by calling for tougher sentences for people plotting terror atrocities.

But his vow to review the safety of public buildings in the wake of a rise in lone-wolf attacks, such as that at Fishmongers’ Hall last week, has been welcomed by Figen Murray, mother of Martyn Hett, who was killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bomb that took 23 lives.

Pledging to ensure building owners and operators ramp up security, Mr Johnson said: “It is no longer sufficient for public venues to prepare for accidental threats like fire.

“They need to reduce their vulnerability to people who seek to perpetrate violent acts too.”

The fresh policy announcement looks to reflect Mr Johnson’s view that he is currently embroiled in a “very, very tight election”, as he told reporters in Salisbury on Tuesday.

The polls have been tightening in recent days, with Labour taking votes from the Liberal Democrats to make gains on the Conservatives.

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There is as little as a five-point margin between Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the Tories, according to some polls. But according to a poll published by YouGov this week, Mr Johnson continues to enjoy a hefty lead over his rival on security issues.

The poll found 44% of voters said they had confidence in the Prime Minister to administer Britain’s security, with the same number declaring they did not – a net approval rating of zero.

By contrast, 21% said they had confidence in Mr Corbyn, while 67% of voters do not – an approval rating of minus 46.

Away from defence and security, a rift looked to have opened up last night between the US and Britain on the subject of a digital tax targeting American internet giants.

Mr Trump had threatened to slap import tariffs of up to 100 per cent – worth almost £2bn annually – on French goods, including cheese, champagne and handbags, following the introduction of a digital services tax on the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Mr Johnson said he deplored such threats, with the UK set to bring in its own digital services levy on the revenues of search engines, social media and online marketplaces that profit from British users.

“I do think we need to look at the operations of the big digital companies and the huge revenues they make in the UK and the amount of tax they pay,” he said, while hitting out at attempts to start “trade wars”.

The US President secured plenty of headlines on day one of his visit to Britain for Nato talks.

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Addressing fears he would push for the NHS to be on the table in post-Brexit trade talks, Mr Trump said: “No, not at all, I have nothing to do with it. Never even thought about it, honestly.”

Mr Corbyn failed in his attempt to accost the White House incumbent at a Nato reception at Buckingham Palace regarding Labour’s concerns about the NHS in any US-UK trade deal.

Mr Trump, speaking earlier this year, had said “everything” would be up for grabs, including the “NHS or anything else”.

Back on the campaign trail, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will use a speech in Birmingham on Wednesday to pledge to put £6,000 back into the pockets of every household in Britain by re-nationalising a swathe of utilities and bringing down the cost of bills.

Mr McDonnell is expected to say Labour would put a “stop to rip-off Britain” with its promises of slashing rail fares by a third, introducing a publicly-owned energy provider and providing free broadband.