Theresa May wants to use London Bridge attack to step up Islamophobia and repression

In the wake of the latest terrorist attack in Britain, it is critical to stand against the growing right wing reaction, write the editors of UK newspaper Socialist Worker.

Prime minister Theresa May is deliberately using the deaths of seven people last night, Saturday, to boost the Tories and encourage revenge against Muslims.

A horrific attack saw seven people killed and around 50 injured at the capital’s London Bridge and Borough Market. Police shot dead three alleged attackers within eight minutes of the attack happening.

May’s speech this morning, presumably crafted by advisers including election strategist Lynton Crosby, was a sharp and deliberate turn towards overt calls for division and Islamophobia.

She said three recent terror attacks were “bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism”.

And she added that “We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are”. May said military intervention abroad would not be enough and demanded new laws and longer jail sentences for what the Tories call non-violent extremism.

May said – without any evidence – that there is “far too much tolerance of extremism in our country” and that “we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society”.

Crackdown

That will mean Muslims in particular are targeted, but that everyone’s rights and freedoms can be curtailed, including a crackdown on internet privacy.

May said that “terrorism breeds terrorism”. In fact, the root of all these attacks is the state terrorism carried out by Britain and the US that has torn apart Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other countries.

This doesn’t justify such attacks, but it’s the inescapable background.

Jeremy Corbyn was right to say after the Manchester attack that “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home”.

And most people agreed with him. A poll showed 53 percent of people supported Corbyn’s view, more than twice the proportion who think foreign policy plays no role.

May said that there will have to be “difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations”. In the future. This is a licence to blame Muslims.

Boris Johnson picked up May’s shift of tone and said, “To those who sympathise or encourage or harbour or aid or abet these killers – in any way – we say enough is enough. Your time is up. The wells of tolerance are running empty”.

What does “in any way” mean? Denouncing British foreign policy? Campaigning against Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians? Speaking out against the Islamophobic Prevent strategy?

If you’re a Muslim in particular it might mean all three.

US president Trump also said that it was “time to stop being politically correct”. He is using the attack as supposed justification of his Muslim ban.

May’s inflammatory and scapegoating speech will lead to even worse reactions – not that May cares.

She said that we must “make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need”. That won’t satisfy her right wing critics.

Peter Kirkham, a former senior investigating officer in the Metropolitan Police, said this morning that the government was lying about the number of armed officers. He also said that the IPCC complaints body [Independent Police Complaints Commission] was persecuting officers unjustly.

Injustices

He went on to say that the only mention of the police in the Tory manifesto was to cut stop and search, implying it was racist.

In fact the IPCC and the Tories have helped the police cover up gross injustices, particularly against black people.

It is crucial that people now come together to stop any further Islamophobic backlash. Stand Up To Racism is working to bring together anti-racists.

May said we must be “united to take on and defeat our enemies”. Her version of “unity” is the total opposite of the unity we need.

May’s version is to use the natural shock and horror that people feel to distract from the fragmenting Tory election campaign and to submerge class divisions.

As well as stopping the backlash, there needs to be an immediate return to election campaigning against the Tories. This vile and dangerous government needs to go.