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Britain’s two main parties traded accusations about security and policing on Tuesday as they moved towards their last full day of campaigning ahead of Thursday’s general election. Labour warned that cuts to police funding were putting the public at risk of attacks such as Saturday’s near London Bridge.
The Conservatives struggled to defend their record of cutting police numbers by 20,000 since 2010 but sought to shift the focus on to Jeremy Corbyn’s past political associations. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson used a speech in a marginal constituency in Durham to accuse the Labour leader of siding with Britain’s enemies.
“For 30 years, he has been soft and muddle-headed on terror, he has been soft and muddle-headed on defence, he has taken the side of just about every adversary this country has had in my lifetime. From the IRA to Hamas, from soviet communism to General [Leopoldo] Galtieri, for heaven’s sake,” he said.
Mr Johnson claimed that Mr Corbyn’s lifelong commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament would put the entire western alliance at risk. And he ridiculed the idea of the Labour leader taking charge of Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union, which begin less than two weeks after the election.
“He would be forced to go into coalition with the Scots Nats and the Liberals, and he would appear in Brussels as a sort of Tricephalous monster, Zaphod Beeblebrox, if you can remember him, with an extra head, with Nicola Sturgeon jabbering in one ear, Tim Farron in the other, both of them telling him to do exactly what Brussels wants because both of those parties are 100 per cent committed to reversing that decision of June 23rd and staying in the EU.
“How on earth would Corbyn be able to construct a logical negotiating position with that pair on his back?” Mr Johnson said.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg accused Theresa May of failing to prepare voters for the compromises she will have to make in the Brexit negotiations if she remains prime minister. He said that her refusal to speak clearly about the difficult choices Britain would have to make over Brexit represented a spectacular failure of leadership.
“She’s digesting close to four million Ukip voters in one sitting, she in effect only does what the editor of the Daily Mail tells her to do these days as far as I can make out, so she has no room for manoeuvre because she will preside over, in effect, a new party – a merged party between the Conservative Party and Ukip,” he said.
Mr Corbyn was due to address a rally in Birmingham on Tuesday evening, with his speech streamed simultaneously to five other rallies around the country. Polls continued to predict wildly divergent outcomes for the election, with a new poll from Survation putting the Conservatives just one point ahead of Labour, while Opinium put Ms May’s party seven points ahead.