London Terror Attack: Political parties suspend General Election campaigning

Armed police on St Thomas Street, London, near the scene of last night's terrorist incident at Borough Market
Armed police on St Thomas Street, London, near the scene of last night's terrorist incident at Borough Market

National campaigning in the General Election has been suspended by most political parties in the wake of the terror attack at London Bridge.

Prime Minister Theresa May was chairing a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee in Whitehall on Sunday morning, and was expected to make a statement later in the day.

The Cobra meeting will hear experts' assessment of whether the UK's terror threat level should be returned to "critical" - meaning further attacks could be imminent.

A senior Conservative spokesman said national events were being suspended and a decision on further campaigning would be taken later in the day.

And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would also be suspending national campaigning until the evening, after consultation with other parties.

It is the second time that campaigning has been suspended. It was suspended for three days after the Manchester attack on May 22.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre moved the terror threat up to critical following the Manchester bomb, triggering heightened security measures including the deployment of military personnel to support police under Operation Temperer.

The threat level was last weekend lowered to the second highest category of severe, meaning an attack was judged "highly likely".

The Union flag was flying at half mast over Downing Street ahead of the Cobra meeting.

A senior Tory spokesman said: "The Conservative party will not be campaigning nationally today. We will review as the day goes on and as more details of the attack emerge."

And Mr Corbyn said: "The Labour Party will be suspending national campaigning until this evening, after consultations with other parties, as a mark of respect for those who have died and suffered injury."

Liberal Democrats confirmed that their national campaigning was also on hold.

The London Bridge attack, which killed seven and injured at least 48, was met by an outpouring of messages from candidates in the election, of sympathy for those affected and praise for the response of the emergency services.

Mrs May said: "Our thoughts are with those who are caught up in these dreadful events."

And Mr Corbyn said: "We are all shocked and horrified by the brutal attacks in London. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have died and the many who have been injured. Today, we will all grieve for their loss."

Thanking police, emergency services and NHS staff for their "bravery and professionalism", the Labour leader added: "Those who wish to harm our people, divide our communities and attack our democracy will not succeed.

"We will stand together to defend our common values of solidarity, humanity and justice, and will not allow terrorists to derail our democratic process."

A number of senior politicians urged Mrs May to resist calls to delay the election in response to the tragedy.

Conservative former foreign minister Alistair Burt said: "We don't have a Parliament or MPs at present. If there's no General Election, when would we get one?

"Must carry on. Parliament must be the national forum to decide response. We cannot live by incident and reaction via vox pop and social media."

Conservative Steve Baker said: "We are without a Parliament to scrutinise and legislate until there has been an election. The election must proceed on schedule."

And fellow Tory Peter Heaton-Jones said: "Our campaign is suspended out of respect. But Thursday's election must go ahead."

The Democratic Unionist Party's Ian Paisley Jr called for security to be stepped up at polling stations.

"People must feel safe especially at election time," said Mr Paisley. "Every effort must be made to protect polling stations across the kingdom.

"These terror attacks are attacks on our freedom and on our democracy designed to make us feel fear. Answer back with 'business as usual'. Madness to concede any ground to terror. Stand strong, democracy prevails."

The attack came five days before the election, with opinion polls suggesting great uncertainty about the outcome of the contest.

One new opinion poll by Survation for the Mail on Sunday put Conservatives a single point ahead of Labour, on 40% to 39% for Jeremy Corbyn's party.

However, the findings contrast sharply with a ComRes poll for the Independent and Sunday Mirror which still shows the Conservatives with a 12-point advantage.

Opinium for The Observer also has the Tories ahead but with the gap narrowing to six points.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "Tonight's horrific incidents in London remind us how much we owe our emergency services. My thoughts and prayers with everyone affected."

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "Dreadful news from London. My thoughts are with all those affected."

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood said: "This is another devastating attack. Plaid Cymru extends its condolences to the people affected and the emergency services that work so hard in these difficult circumstances. People deserve to live their lives without fear, and we must come together to reject hate."

The BBC cancelled its pre-election edition of the influential Andrew Marr Show, which had been due to feature election interviews with Mr Farron, Brexit Secretary David Davis and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, as well as Sunday Politics, which was going to feature interviews with Lib Dem former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, Conservative Treasury minister David Gauke and Labour's Chi Onwurah.

Greens confirmed that they too were suspending national campaigning until the evening, though activities will continue at a local level.

Co-leader Caroline Lucas said: "My heart goes out to all those affected and caught up in these horrific and despicable attacks, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.

"Deep thanks to our emergency services who have responded again with enormous bravery, and to the many members of the public displaying courage and compassion in the midst of terrible scenes."

However, Ukip have broken with the other main political parties in refusing to suspend General Election campaigning in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack.

Leader Paul Nuttall said that a second disruption to the campaign - following a three-day pause after the Manchester suicide bomb - was "precisely what the extremists would want us to do" and could lead to more attacks.

In a statement, Mr Nuttall said: "With more people murdered on the streets of our capital city last night by Islamist terrorists, it is more important than ever for us to confront this evil with the democratic principles that have made this country what it is.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives last night. The courage and quick response of our emergency services have yet again saved countless lives and in the midst of such a tragedy, deserve our respect and admiration.

"It is time to start honouring our dead with more than just words. The only guarantee that will come from our choosing to stall the democratic process again will be more attacks; it is what these cowards want us to do.

"For those of us seeking to serve the people of this country, it is our duty to drive the dialogue on how best to confront and defeat this brand of terrorism.

"That is what Ukip will be doing today and beyond. Therefore, I refuse to suspend campaigning because this is precisely what the extremists would want us to do."