Home Secretary Amber Rudd has rejected suggestions that a decline in the number of police officers had made the UK more vulnerable to terrorism.
Ms Rudd said it was “simply wrong” to blame the 20,000 fall in police numbers for the terrorist rampage at London Bridge and Borough Market.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said that Labour’s plans for an extra 10,000 police would “not necessarily” have prevented the attacks but the increased number of officers would have created better links with the community.
The two politicians clashed in a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour debate in which Ms Rudd insisted that the reforms put in place had protected frontline policing despite the cuts in numbers.
The Home Secretary said: “This angle that the Labour Party are very much going on, and to a certain extent the Liberal Democrats, that the reducing of the numbers of policemen on the beat is somehow accountable for this attack is simply wrong.”
She said HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor had concluded “the measure of police effectiveness is not in direct correlation to the numbers of police officers, except in public order situations”.
She added: “We do have to remember that the reductions that were made in 2010 to 2015 were - and I do admit ... there was a reduction in police numbers - also led to a reduction in crime.”
But Ms Thornberry said: “What we propose is 10,000 additional police officers to make up for some of the cuts.
“That would mean one police officer in each ward, in each local community. That by itself would not necessarily mean that we would have stopped these terrorist attacks.
“But I tell you what it would mean: It would mean that the police would be less stretched, they would be able to work with the community better.”
The pair also clashed over the UK’s links with Saudi Arabia, with the Home Secretary insisting “we have the toughest form of export licences in the world” for arms sales.
She said the UK had managed to reduce funding flows to extremist groups from Saudi Arabia and “we are always watchful to make sure their influence, where it is bad, is going to be limited”.
But Ms Thornberry criticised arms sales, saying: “People in Yemen are being starved as a result of the bombardment with our bombs.”
Also appearing on the show were LIberal Democrat Jo Swinson, the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman and Ukip’s Margot Parker.