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Boris Johnson ignores call to stop politicising London Bridge attack | Politics

Boris Johnson has refused to acknowledge a heartfelt call from David Merritt to stop politicising the death of his son, Jack, in the London Bridge terror attack last week.

On the campaign trail in Salisbury, the prime minister was confronted with the words of Merritt, who said that Jack would have been “seething that his death was being used to perpetuate an agenda of hate that he gave his everything fighting against”.

But Johnson ignored Merritt’s message and reiterated his insistence that tougher sentencing was the answer to dealing with the threat of terrorists reoffending.

Asked whether he accepted Merritt’s calls for the politicisation to stop, he said: “I’ve campaigned for tougher sentencing for a long time. It was in my manifesto when I stood to be mayor of London in 2012 and I said in August it was a mistake to have automatic release of serious and violent offenders. As you know, there is a bill waiting to go in the Queen’s speech to implement that.

“One of the frustrations that I had about this parliament and the lack of a working Conservative majority is that we were unable to progress that. I do think, I’m afraid, that automatic early release for prisoners of this kind is not the right thing for this country.”

The prime minister’s repeated calls for tougher sentencing since the attack on Friday in London have drawn condemnation from opposition parties, who said it was distasteful to exploit the event to promote his policies and to seek to pin the blame on Labour.

In an earlier interview with Sky News, Johnson claimed there were “some people who cannot be rehabilitated” and argued that in the case of the attacker, Usman Khan, it would have been “better for the protection of the society and us all to keep him in than run the risk of letting him out”.

Merritt, in an article for the Guardian on Monday, said Jack had campaigned against locking people up and “throwing away the key”.

Merritt wrote: “If Jack could comment on his death – and the tragic incident on Friday 29 November – he would be livid. We would see him ticking it over in his mind before a word was uttered between us. Jack would understand the political timing with visceral clarity.

“He would be seething at his death, and his life, being used to perpetuate an agenda of hate that he gave his everything fighting against. We should never forget that.”

Johnson has been emphasising his security policies this week but advisers claim this was long planned because of the Nato leaders’ meeting taking place on Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting, he is due to announce that public venues will be compelled to ramp up security against the threat of terrorism. The move is a response to a campaign from the family of Martyn Hett, a victim of the 2017 Manchester attack, who have been pushing for venues to be better prepared for evacuation of their premises.

The Conservatives said they would, if elected, “require venues to assess the threat of a terrorist attack and take steps to prepare as part of their health and safety strategy”.

Johnson said: “The nature of threats faced by British citizens has changed in the evolution of modern extremism. It is no longer sufficient for public venues to prepare for accidental threats like fire. They need to reduce their vulnerability to people who seek to perpetrate violent acts too … there are steps we can and will take to make public spaces as secure as possible.”


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