Socialist Worker

Tories use London Bridge killings to reinforce right wing policy

Issue No. 2683

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick, Priti Patel and Boris Johnson visit the scene

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick, Priti Patel and Boris Johnson visit the scene (Pic: PA)


Right wingers are using the horrific killing of two people near London Bridge last week to bolster a reactionary agenda.

Boris Johnson led the charge of frenzied calls for longer sentences, more prison officers, more police and fewer civil liberties.

Almost all politicians avoided the link with Britain’s imperialist foreign policy and such attacks and call for strengthening the “War on Terror”.

The Tory prime minister and home secretary Priti Patel visited the area where Usman Khan fatally stabbed Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones.

Police officers shot dead Khan minutes later on London Bridge after he was restrained by members of the public.

At the scene Johnson said, “The terrorist who attacked yesterday was sentenced 11 years ago under laws passed in 2008 which established automatic early release.

“This system has got to end—I repeat, this has got to end, as I’ve been saying for four months.

“If you are convicted of a serious terrorist offence there should be a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years—and some should never be released.

“Further, for all terrorism and extremist offences the sentence announced by the judge must be the time actually served.

“These criminals must serve every day of their sentence, with no exceptions.”

Weaken

Johnson added that if the Tories win the general election he will use Brexit to weaken human rights laws.

Khan, who was born in Stoke-on-Trent, had been convicted in 2012. He was part of a group of eight others said to have been inspired by al-Qaida.

The group had been bugged by the MI5 spooks and were accused of talking about wanting to carry out attacks, including on the London Stock Exchange.

Khan was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for public protection, which allowed him to be held in prison indefinitely.

In 2013 the Court of Appeal revised Khan’s sentence to a term of 16 years and told him he would have to spend a minimum of eight years in jail.

He was released on licence last year meaning he could be returned to prison on arrest.

However much politicians and pundits seek to ignore it, the stabbings on London Bridge are linked to the “War on Terror”.

It has seen millions murdered or been made refugees by nearly 20 years of the West’s wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In Britain Muslims have been painted as an “enemy within”, a community subject to state surveillance such as Prevent.

As long as these imperialist wars continue, their bitter fruits will blossom. The Tories will only bring more wars and racism, bombings and attacks.


Jeremy Corbyn points to West’s wars but collapses into patriotism

Jeremy Corbyn pointed the finger at the West’s wars in the Middle East.

The Labour leader said, “Sixteen years ago, I warned against the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

“I said it would set off a spiral of conflict, hate, misery, desperation that will fuel the wars, the conflict, the terrorism and the misery of future generations.

“It did, and we are still living with the consequences today.”

In 2003 the US and British invasion of Iraq was trumpeted as a way of decreasing the risk of terrorism.

But as Corbyn said, “Britain’s repeated military interventions in North Africa and the wider Middle East, including Afghanistan, have exacerbated rather than resolved the problems.

“Now we risk being dragged into a further conflict with Iran on the side of a Saudi regime. It is an enemy of human rights prolonging a desperate humanitarian crisis in Yemen, interfering in its neighbours’ affairs and murdering journalists.”

Corbyn was right to make the overt connection with imperialist war.

Jeremy Corbyn was right to link Wests war with Manchester attack
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This was similar to his response to the killing of 23 people in the Manchester bombing at a similar stage in the 2017 general election campaign.But Labour’s response was slower this time.

For several days the party denounced “security on the cheap,” demanded a “very full investigation” and questioned “what the probation service were doing and whether the parole board should have been involved”.

Corbyn’s response was framed in more nationalist terms, saying, “I am patriotic about the people of this country.

“Patriotism is about supporting each other, not attacking somebody else.”

While Corbyn said he was right to oppose Nato bombing in Libya, he dropped his previous opposition to the warmonger’s alliance.

“In Nato we will work for the alliance to reduce tensions in Europe and beyond,” he said.

“That should be the focus of this week’s Nato summit in London.”

Corbyn is right to blame imperialism—he shouldn’t make concessions over opposing it.


Resist the rush towards a clampdown on rights

Some are resisting the rush to a right wing clampdown—including the father of one of the London Bridge victims.

David Merritt hit out at Daily Mail and Daily Express newspaper headlines praising Boris Johnson’s “blitz on freed jihadis”.

“Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos to promote your vile propaganda,” he said.

“Jack stood against everything you stand for—hatred, division, ignorance.”

Jack Merritt worked for Learning Together, a Cambridge University programme aimed at improving prisoner rehabilitation.

David added, “My son, Jack would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.”

He added that Jack was “a champion for underdogs everywhere, but especially those dealt a losing hand by life, who ended up in the prison system”.


The right will stoke racism

Racism may have played a role in motivating Usman Khan, according to court documents from 2012.

They cite how Khan and others discussed bombing pubs in Stoke-on-Trent as a response to “racist incidents”.

Certainly some on the right and the far right will seek to entrench Islamophobia further following the London Bridge attacks.

Taxi driver Mirza Mahmood from Stoke told the Guardian newspaper last Saturday, “Let me tell you, there is always more abuse, and we drivers get attacked much more every time there is an incident like this.

“Our children suffer, everyone suffers. The racism is much worse than it was a decade ago. It’s tense. Everyone is tense.”

We need to build anti-racist unity against the right wingers and against any revenge attacks.


No to more police powers

Unfortunately, Corbyn has also conceded that the police have the right to shoot people if they think “innocent lives are at risk”.

On London Bridge the police dragged members of the public off Usman Khan and then shot him.

Previously Corbyn has resisted such calls.

Last month he suggested the leader of Isis, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, should have been arrested and put on trial.

Al-Baghdadi died in October when he blew himself up with a suicide vest during a raid by US Special Forces.


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