Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of a “totally inappropriate and crassly timed” intervention as he seeks to draw links between Britain’s involvement in military interventions overseas and terrorism at home, as the General Election campaign resumes four days after the Manchester bomb attack.
The Labour leader’s speech comes as a brace of polls suggest the Conservative lead over his party is narrowing, with one showing Theresa May’s Tories just five points ahead - the tightest since the campaign for the June 8 election was launched.
All the major parties are expected to resume national campaigning on Friday, although Prime Minister Mrs May will not be involved as she is in Italy for a summit of the G7 group of industrialised nations.
In a speech in London, Mr Corbyn will launch a barely veiled attack on the Conservative record on terror, saying it is the “responsibility” of governments to minimise the risk of attacks by giving police the funding they need and ensuring their foreign policy does not heighten the threat to the UK.
He will promise to deliver the funding security agencies and emergency services need, and will say Labour would adopt a new approach towards countries that act as a seedbed for extremist violence, declaring it is time to recognise the West’s “war on terror” is not working.
But Security Minister Ben Wallace condemned Mr Corbyn’s speech and said Islamist terror was aimed at the British way of life rather than a response to foreign military interventions.
In what is likely to be seen as a reference to Britain’s military involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as air strikes against terrorist targets in Syria - all of which he opposed - Mr Corbyn will say Labour would “change what we do abroad” if it won power.
“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home,” Mr Corbyn will say.
“That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and held to account for their actions.
“But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people that fights rather than fuels terrorism.
“We must be brave enough to admit the ‘War on Terror’ is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.”
Mr Corybn will say the “solidarity, humanity and compassion” on the streets of Manchester in the days following Monday’s atrocity would be the values that guide his government in office.
In what may be an attempt to fend off allegations of a lack of patriotism, he will say: “There can be no love of country if there is neglect or disregard for its people.”
Promising to increase spending on the police and emergency services, Mr Corbyn will say: “No government can prevent every terrorist attack. If an individual is determined enough and callous enough sometimes they will get through.
“But the responsibility of government is to minimise that chance - to ensure the police have the resources they need, that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country, and that at home we never surrender the freedoms we have won and that terrorists are so determined to take away.”
Mr Wallace, who has responsibility for counter-terrorism matters, criticised Mr Corbyn’s grasp of the issues, telling BBC Breakfast: “He needs to get his history book out, to be brutally honest.”
He added: “These people hate our values, it’s not our foreign policy they go to war with us about.”
The Tory minister added that “Jeremy Corbyn’s comments are totally inappropriate and crassly timed” while the police operation in Manchester was ongoing and people were being treated in hospital following Monday’s atrocity.
“Now is not the time to decide to use this event to attack foreign policy decisions that may or may not have been made,” he said.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord (Paddy) Ashdown said: “Some political leaders have sought to politicise the events of the week, but now is not the time, and this is not the event, to seek political advantage.”
Meanwhile, both main parties faced criticism over their tax and spending plans from the respected economic think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
The Tory goal of cutting immigration would hit tax revenues and could damage the economy, it said, while public services such as the NHS would have to be bailed out through tax rises or increased borrowing or risk a decline in quality.
Labour’s plans to raise spending to its highest level since the mid-1980s and take the tax burden to “record levels in peacetime” were highly uncertain, the think tank warned.
The planned £48.6 billion raised in extra taxes “is an overestimate”, the IFS said, and there was “no way” the tax rises could be focused on the rich and businesses in order to raise such a large amount.
In the first opinion poll taken since the Manchester suicide bomb - released on Mr Corbyn’s 68th birthday - YouGov found Conservatives down a point on the previous week on 43% and Labour up three on 38%, with Lib Dems up one on 10% and Ukip up one on 4%.
A TNS/Kantar poll taken before Monday night’s atrocity put Conservatives down five points on 42%, with Labour up five on 34%, Lib Dems up a point on 9% and Ukip down two on 4%.