Terror returned to London’s streets at the weekend less than three months after the Westminster attack, and once again our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those innocent bystanders caught up in the carnage on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market.
This latest terrorist outrage, condemned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a “deliberate and cowardly” act, comes less than two weeks after the Manchester suicide bombing when Salman Abedi perpetrated one of the worst terrorist attacks in this country’s history.
As with the Manchester bombing, Saturday night’s attack in the heart of the capital was a heinous atrocity the sole purpose of which was to inflict the maximum number of casualties.
The speed of the armed response – the three terrorists were shot dead just eight minutes after the first reports came in – is testament to the professionalism of our public servants, and Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick rightly praised the extraordinary courage of members of the public and emergency services who ‘ran towards the danger’, saying their selflessness had helped save lives.
The response from political leaders has been both defiant and angry. Following the attack in Manchester, Theresa May spoke for the nation when she talked of the British spirit that would ‘never be broken’ by terrorism. However, standing outside Number 10 yesterday, her hard-hitting response marked a significant change in tone as she set out a four-point plan of action.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Cobra committee, Mrs May warned there has been “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the UK and pledged to step up the fight against Islamist terrorism, saying “enough is enough”.
As well as signalling the need to review the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy, the Prime Minister said it was too easy for extremists to find safe havens online without censure and that cyberspace must be properly regulated if we are to root them out.
There are echoes here with the tough stance adopted by Tony Blair in 2005 in the wake of the 7/7 atrocities when he said British hospitality had been abused and that people should know the “rules of the game are changing” – a precursor to the introduction of a raft of anti-terrorism measures.
The recent spate of terrorist attacks on British soil has undoubtedly shaken public confidence, just as it did 12 years ago. Since 2005, our counter-terrorism strategy has proved robust and successful. However, the threat we face today has changed – it’s much easier to attack people with vehicles and knives than it is to build a bomb – and the unpalatable truth is these kind of attacks are harder to prevent.
This latest atrocity highlights the invidious challenge facing our security services who work around the clock to keep the nation safe. Since 2013, they have foiled 18 plots, including five since the Westminster attack in March, and the harsh reality is the police have to be successful every time; terrorists only need to succeed once.
The vile perpetrators behind this latest attack were fuelled by hatred; hatred of our freedom, hatred of our liberty and hatred of our tolerance and compassion. They cannot be allowed to win – and they will not.
Election still on - Democracy must not be derailed
For the second time during this General Election, terrorists have attempted to derail the democratic process through their barbaric actions.
National campaigning was suspended yesterday by all the major parties apart from Ukip, whose leader Paul Nuttall warned that stalling the election campaign could lead to more attacks.
It had been suggested that the election itself should be postponed as a mark of respect and to allow the government to deal with this renewed threat. However, the Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed it will go ahead this week as planned.
The lull in electioneering was the right decision given in the circumstances, but equally we cannot allow violence to disrupt the democratic process indefinitely.
Any delay in the election would have been seen as a victory by jihadists who would like nothing more than to bring chaos and division to our shores. Moreover, it would only serve to give them more time to mount further atrocities.
Initially there was little appetite for this election, which comes less than 12 months after the hugely divisive EU referendum. However, the recent terror attacks have, if anything, served to remind us just how important, despite its flaws, our democracy is.
That’s why it is the responsibility of all those eligible, irrespective of age or political persuasion, to cast their vote on Thursday. Not only is it our democratic right, it is also our democratic responsibility if we want to safeguard the freedoms we cherish.