Jeremy Corbyn has changed his mind over whether Theresa May should resign over cuts to police numbers while she was Home Secretary.
The Labour leader this morning said he backed calls from some, including David Cameron’s former strategist Steve Hilton, that the prime minister should quit in the wake of the terror attacks on London Bridge.
However Corbyn later clarified that he did not think May should resign and that people should vote her out of office one June 8.
Asked by ITV News this morning if he would “back” calls for May to quit, Corbyn said:
“Indeed I would. She was at the Home Office for all this time, presided over these cuts in police numbers and now is saying we have a problem. Yes we do have a problem, we should never have cut the police numbers.”
But he later said the leadership of the country should be decided on Thursday at the election.
“You think she should resign?” Corbyn was asked in an TV interview. “No,” he said.
And he denied he was walking back his original statement. “I’m not backing away from anything. There is an election on now. There is a choice before everybody,” the Labour leader said.
In the wake of the London Bridge terror attack and with the general election just days away, the prime minister is under pressure over a 20,000 reduction in the number of officers on the streets since 2010.
May this morning defended her record. “The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has said that the Met is well-resourced, and they are, and that they have very powerful counter-terrorism capabilities, and they do, we have protected counter-terrorism policing budgets,” she told a press conference.
“We have also provided funding for an increase in the number of armed police officers since 2015. We have protected our all police budgets.”
Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s former chief strategist, this morning said May “should be resigning not seeking re-election” over “security failures”.
Asked about Hilton’s comments, May said: “I don’t think I’m the only person in Westminster who has found himself on the receiving end of a few comments from Steve Hilton.”
Questions have also been asked about the drop in the number of armed police officers. According to Home Office figures, there were 6,976 armed officers in March 2010 and 5,639 in March 2016.
On Saturday evening, armed police shot dead the three attackers in London Bridge within eight minutes of receiving the first emergency call. Seven people were killed by the attackers and 48 were injured.
Jim Gamble, the former head of Special Branch in Belfast, has attacked the “endless cuts” to the police during May’s time as Home Secretary and Prime Minister.
Writing for HuffPost UK, Gamble said May of trying to “asset strip the critical services who in times of trouble make the real difference”.