LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain needs her strong leadership “now more than ever” as Britain comes to terms with the terrorist attack that left seven people dead in central London on Saturday.
The prime minister said “the threat of Islamist extremism is the gravest we have ever faced” and promised that Britain would play a lead role in defeating the “evil ideology” that inspired recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
“We must do more — much more — to take on the evil ideology of Islamist extremism,” May said.
“It is an ideology that promotes a false choice between the West and Islam. It’s a perversion of Islam. We must deny it the safe spaces we need to take root and grow.”
Speaking at the same central London venue where she launched her bid for the Conservative leadership last year, the prime minister stressed the importance of strong leadership as Britain deals with the threat of Islamist extremism and heads into Brexit talks with the European Union.
“The question of leadership has always been at the heart of this campaign. The ability to get the job done — that’s what leadership means to me.
“And we need that leadership now more than ever.”
She compared her own leadership to that of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying that unlike him, she had not “given cover to the IRA.”
However, the PM faced questions about her own leadership while home secretary under David Cameron.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today called on her resign over cuts to policing, while her former colleague and director of Downing Street strategy, Steve Hilton, said she carried responsibility for failing to prevent the attacks.
The prime minister brushed off Hilton’s comments, telling Business Insider that she was not “the only person in Westminster who has found themselves on the receiving end of a few comments from Steve Hilton”.
She also denied that her cuts to frontline police funding had been reponsible for the attacks.
Theresa May responds to my question about Hilton’s claim she is responsible for failure to prevent terror attacks https://t.co/UQmiZ2Orbc pic.twitter.com/c9s1fbTiZA
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) June 5, 2017
May focused the bulk of her speech on her own qualities, telling journalists and party members that she has never been a “showy” politician who “appears in TV studios” and “goes drinking in parliament bars” but will take the action necessary to defend the interests of the country.
“If there was every a need for a prime minister who is ready to do the job from day one, this is it,” May insisted.
She added that Thursday’s general election was about “trust” and a choice between a Conservative government focused on economic growth, and a Jeremy Corbyn-led government intent on raising tax and increasing spending to high levels.
“I want to do more to spread opportunity and prosperity around the country,” she said. “I want to make markets work for ordinary people.”
May was speaking to national and international media after three unidentified terrorists attacked London Bridge and nearby Borough Market in central London on Saturday, killing seven and leaving at least 48 injured.
The prime minister said she did not regret the decision she took as Home Secretary to cut the number of police on Britain’s streets, despite warnings from former police officers about the impact of cuts to community policing.
May accused Corbyn of being weak in the battle against terrorism and highlighted his past opposition to the “shoot to kill” policy currently afforded to the police accused the Labour leader of giving “cover” to the IRA.
EU figures would think “Christmas had come early” if Corbyn was elected to represent Britain at the negotiating table in a few weeks time, she added said.
The prime minister delivered her speech in the same venue that she launched her bid to replace David Cameron as Conservative Party leader earlier this year.
She said London Mayor Sadiq Khan has so far done an “excellent job” in responding to Saturday’s attack but declined to criticise US President Donald Trump who mocked Khan in a series of tweets posted immediately after the attack.
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