Boris Johnson has been accused of using the London Bridge attack for political gain, blaming the tragedy on laws brought in by a “leftie government”. Aside from placing the responsibility for the attacker’s release from prison at Labour’s feet, the Conservatives have also announced policies to persuade voters that they’re ‘tough on crime’ in the wake of it.
But this weaponisation of the incident has now backfired. Numerous people, including one of the victims’ fathers, have criticised how the attack is being cynically used.
One of Usman Khan’s victims in the terrorist attack was Jack Merritt. He worked for the Learning Together programme, which focuses on rehabilitation of prisoners and their reintegration into society after release. Following his son’s murder, Jack’s father David posted the following on Twitter:
My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.
R.I.P. Jack: you were a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog.
Neither Johnson nor his cheerleading media heeded that call. In fact, Britain’s media splashed his proposed “blitz” on released prisoners across their front pages. David posted the following in response:
Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos – to promote your vile propaganda. Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance. https://t.co/R8LO16lugk
— David Merritt (@butwhatifitsall) December 1, 2019
“A lethal combination of arrogance, ineptitude and defensiveness”
An extremism expert has also challenged Johnson’s attempt to blame Labour for the situation. Ian Acheson carried out a review of Islamist extremism in relation to the UK justice system in 2015. Speaking on BBC Radio 4‘s The World This Weekend, he said:
At the heart of this is the destruction of the prison and probation service through crazy, failed, ideological austerity cuts
Acheson claimed ministers “privately acknowledged” such a cause, adding:
We went far too far, far too fast – we are now reaping what we sowed.
On his 2015 extremism review, the expert said he found “a lethal combination of arrogance, ineptitude and defensiveness in Whitehall”. That characterisation was evident in the government’s response to the report’s recommendations. Acheson said the government “conflated” 69 recommendations into just 11 in its official response.
Meanwhile, former Conservative justice minister Phillip Lee has accused Johnson of using “the Trump playbook” in his reaction to the tragedy.
Justice secretary Robert Buckland has responded to the criticism. On BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme, the minister repeated the lines of attack on Labour. But when asked about whether he was “a little ashamed” of his government’s use of the tragedy for electoral purposes, he said:
I do think we need to pause and get the tone of this debate right.
That’s too little too late from the Conservative government. The party’s instinct – one it acted on – was to use this terrorist attack for political gain. It effectively showed the same level of “arrogance, ineptitude and defensiveness” that Acheson said he found in Whitehall in 2015.
Britain needs and deserves better leadership than that.
Featured image via Guardian News/YouTube
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