Prime Minister Theresa May faced call to quit from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday as the general election campaign became dominated by the fall-out from the London Bridge terrorist attack.
Mrs May came under mounting pressure over a cut of nearly 20,000 in police numbers south of the Border made while she was in office as home secretary.
Mr Corbyn said there was deep public anger at the cuts Mrs May had “presided” over and said that the “best way” for the issue to be dealt with was by voters on Thursday.
But the Prime Minister went on the offensive by attacking Mr Corbyn’s record on tackling terrorism.
Meanwhile, Steve Hilton, a former adviser to David Cameron while he was in Number 10, said Mrs May was “responsible for security failures” and “should be resigning, not seeking re-election”.
And both London mayor Sadiq Khan and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick called for more resources to be made available.
Asked if he backed calls for Mrs May to resign, Mr Corbyn said: “Indeed I would, because 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.
“I’m articulating what is a deep anger among those people that have seen 20,000 police officers lose their jobs, seen firefighters lose their jobs, seen ambulance crews unable to cope. She needs to think about what she did while she was home secretary.”
Mr Khan praised officers for doing a “fantastic job” with the resources they have, but said it was “a fact that, over the last seven years, we as a city have lost £600 million from our budget – we have had to close police stations, sell police buildings and we’ve lost thousands of police staff.”
He added: “Over the next four years there are plans to cut a further £400 million from our city’s policing budget. There are plans to change the police funding formula which could mean we lose up to £700m on top of that, which leads to a total loss of our policing budget of £1.7 billion and we don’t receive the right level of funding as a capital city we should receive.”
Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said the authorities were confronting a “new reality” after three deadly assaults hit the UK in just ten weeks.
Asked whether she would demand additional officers, Ms Dick said: “Over the last several years, police services have in many respects become, it’s a ghastly phrase, but become very much more efficient, they have managed to do things in a more productive manner. We need to go on doing that in the future.
“But in the face of this changing threat, absolutely I will be seeking for London, and for policing generally, more resourcing.”
Facing repeated questions about her record after a speech in London, Mrs May said: “I have been responsible for giving the police extra powers to deal with terrorism. Jeremy Corbyn has boasted that he has opposed those powers and opposed the powers for anti-terror actions throughout his time in Parliament.
“And I also support, absolutely, shoot-to-kill and I think what we saw on our streets on Saturday was how important that was.”
Mrs May said that since 2015 police budgets had been protected “despite the fact Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench suggested police budgets should be cut by up to 10 per cent”.
Asked directly if she would reverse the cuts to police numbers, Mrs May said that the counter-terrorism budget had been protected and funding for 1,500 more armed officers was in place.
“But it’s not just about resource, it’s about the powers people have,” she added.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused Mrs May of failing in her duty to keep the UK safe.
He said: “On one of the most important tests facing us as a country, security, Theresa May has failed as both Prime Minister and home secretary.
“She has failed by cutting police numbers. She has made poor choices. She has chosen to give away a corporation tax cut to the biggest and wealthiest businesses in our country, multi-nationals, instead of spending that money on keeping us safe and backing the police force and security services. Cutting police numbers is the most sure way of keeping us less safe.”
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said it was “farcical” for Mr Corbyn to call for Mrs May to resign.
Mr Nuttall said Mrs May had “an appalling record” as home secretary after cutting police and prison officers, reducing the UK border force and failing to cut immigration, but he added: “For Jeremy Corbyn of all people to attack Theresa May on keeping the British people safe, I think, is quite farcical, considering this is the man who’s cosied up to terrorists for years.”