Jeremy Corbyn has called for Theresa May to resign as prime minister for presiding over cuts in police numbers as home secretary.
In the wake of three terror attacks in three months, the Labour leader attacked Mrs May over government cuts which have left the police with 20,000 fewer officers than in 2010.
Asked by ITV News on Monday if he backed calls for the prime minister to resign, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Indeed I would.’
He added: ‘There’s been calls made by a lot of very responsible people on this who are very worried that she was at the Home Office for all this time, presided over these cuts in police numbers and is now saying that we have a problem – yes, we do have a problem, we should never have cut the police numbers.’
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When asked a second time if he wanted Mrs May to quit, Mr Corbyn replied: ‘We’ve got an election on Thursday and that’s perhaps the best opportunity to deal with it.’
At a campaign speech in Edinburgh, Mrs May tried to laugh off the calls, saying that people would make their decision in the ballot box on Thursday.
Mr Corbyn’s call comes as the prime minister sought to defend her record as the turbulent fallout from the terror attack.
She has been pilloried for presiding over the reduction in police resources, and was hit with a barrage of questions by journalists as she tried to get her campaign back on track.
— Richard Burgon (@RichardBurgon) June 5, 2017
It was the second time campaigning has been suspended since the snap election was called, with a longer break following the Manchester Arena attack, when 22 people were killed by a suicide bomber at an Ariana Grande concert.
The Labour leader was asked by ITV News’ Rachel Younger if he held Mrs May ‘in any way’ responsible and if cuts to the police contributed to the London Bridge atrocity.
Mr Corbyn replied: ‘The primary responsibility for this lies with those who did it, they killed people in cold blood in a disgusting and appalling way and there’s no words other than total condemnation.
‘On the issues of policing – the government has been warned repeatedly about police cuts, and the Police Federation and many others (have said) how 20,000 have gone down over the past seven years.
‘We’ve said we’d put 10,000 back immediately and also increase the number of security officers that are available, because clearly intelligence is a very important part of this.
‘It’s also very important to have a message of bringing communities together and that is something I always give very strongly at all of my events.’
He also suggested that Mrs May broke the election truce after the London Bridge attack.
‘I was surprised that only an hour after they announced they were suspending campaigning that a political speech was made on the steps of Downing Street,’ he said.
‘It was bad timing of it and I think we should have all respected the pause in campaigning, my party certainly did.’
Mr Corbyn’s call comes as the prime minister sought to defend her record as the turbulent fallout from the London Bridge terror attack continues to hit her election campaign.
Mrs May has been repeatedly challenged over her record as home secretary when she presided over cuts that have seen 20,000 fewer police officers on the country’s street.
At an election campaign event in London, Mrs May refused to say whether cuts to police numbers under her watch should be reversed after the head of the Metropolitan Police called for more resources in the wake of the London Bridge attack.
What she says.
What she did.
Police funding when Home Secretary pic.twitter.com/G2g57bkeWs
— Paul Johnson (@paul__johnson) June 4, 2017
Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said ‘we need to look at our resourcing’ in response to the emerging terrorism threat.
Mrs May said: ‘Cressida Dick has said that the Metropolitan Police are well resourced – and they are, she has said they have very powerful counter-terrorism capabilities – and they do.’
A video from 2015 has also re-emerged , in which Mrs May urged police to stop ‘crying wolf’ over concerns that police cuts were harming their capacity to keep the public safe.
In a speech to the Police Federation two years ago, Mrs May said: ‘This weekend, the federation warned that spending reductions mean that we’ll be “forced to adopt a paramilitary style” of policing in Britain.
‘Today you’ve said that neighbourhood police officers are an “endangered species”.
“I have to tell you that this kind of scaremongering does nobody any good – it doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t serve the officers you represent, and it doesn’t serve the public.
‘You warned that the police – and the public – were being put in danger in 2001, 2004 and 2007. The truth is that crime fell in each of those years, it’s fallen further since, and our country is safer than it’s ever been.
‘So please – for your sake and for the thousands of police officers who work so hard every day – this crying wolf has to stop.’
Police Federation chair Steve White took a thinly veiled swipe at Mrs May on Twitter yesterday, after she said ‘enough is enough’ in her speech at Number 10 Downing Street in the aftermath of the London Bridge attacks.
Mr White pointed out that the federation had used the same message three years ago in reference to police cuts.
— Steve White (@PFEW_Chair) June 4, 2017
Last month, he said cuts to policing meant officers were unable to fully cope with a terror threat without the aid of the army.
‘There is no ignoring the fact that we, the police, simply do not have the resources to manage an event like this on our own,’ he said.
On Monday morning, culture secretary Karen Bradley was sent out to do the round of morning interviews to defend Mrs May.
Tory Culture Minister was sent out to defend Theresa May's cuts to policing. Listen. To. This. https://t.co/HoIrGQZvVZ
— Tory Fibs (@ToryFibs) June 5, 2017
But she floundered in a series of car-crash interviews – most notably on Good Morning Britain, when she was repeatedly quizzed about police cuts.
Responding to a series of questions by Piers Morgan over whether she knew the number of Saudi-backed mosques in the UK, Ms Bradley responded: ‘This is not a pub quiz.’