Father of terrorist attack victim criticises political use of killing
PM rejects London Bridge attack exploitation claims as Corbyn writes to Trump about NHS
Leanne O’Brien, the girlfriend of Jack Merritt, is comforted by family members during a vigil at The Guildhall in Cambridge to honour him and Saskia Jones, both killed in Friday’s London Bridge attack. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA
The father of Jack Merritt, the man who died in Friday’s terrorist attack at London Bridge, has renewed his criticism of the way his son’s death has been used to promote a tougher sentencing regime. Writing in the Guardian, Dave Merritt said his son would understand how his death was being exploited in the general election campaign and he would be livid.
“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,” he said.
Although Mr Merritt did not name Boris Johnson or the Conservatives, he left no doubt that the prime minister’s promise of longer sentences for terrorists had angered him. He said his son’s commitment to prisoner rehabilitation was rooted in a vision of a better world, especially for those most in need.
“That door opens up a world where we do not lock up and throw away the key. Where we do not give indeterminate sentences, or convict people on joint enterprise. Where we do not slash prison budgets, and where we focus on rehabilitation not revenge. Where we do not consistently undermine our public services, the lifeline of our nation,” Mr Merritt wrote.
Earlier, Mr Johnson rejected claims that he had sought to exploit the London Bridge attack for political advantage by promising a harsher sentencing policy. He said he had long advocated longer sentences for serious offenders, particularly those involved in violent crime.
“I’ve campaigned against early release and against short sentences for many years. It was in my manifesto in 2012 when I was mayor of London. I said it in August and it’s in the Queen’s Speech. In fact, there’s a Bill we’ve got ready to go in the Queen’s Speech to stop automatic early release for serious and violent offenders,” he said.
“And I do think, unfortunately, that is the problem that we face. We have too many people who are released automatically on to our streets and we need to address that.”
The prime minister hopes to shift the election campaign’s focus to foreign and security policy, traditionally a strong issue for the Conservative, when he welcomes leaders from Nato member states to a two-day summit in London on Tuesday. But Jeremy Corbyn is determined to use the presence of Donald Trump to warn of the threat to the National Health Service (NHS) he claims a post-Brexit, US trade deal represents.
The Labour leader wrote to the US president on Monday asking him to confirm that the NHS would be off the table in trade negotiations and that the US would not seek better terms for its pharmaceutical companies that could lead to higher drug prices in Britain.
He asked him to drop a demand for “full market access” to British public services, exclude any investor-state dispute mechanism, exempt NHS patient data from any data-sharing provisions and exclude any provision that would prevent the NHS from negotiating deals for the health service as a whole. “You said earlier this year that everything would be ‘on the table’ in a US-UK trade deal, including the NHS. You have since said you don’t necessarily see the NHS as being on the table and ‘part of trade’. To assure the British public that the NHS and other UK public services will not be opened up to ‘total market access’ and irreversible privatisation, and that all aspects of NHS pharmaceuticals procurement will truly be taken off the table in a US-UK trade agreement, I am writing to you today to ask you to request US negotiating objectives are revised as a matter of urgency,” Mr Corbyn wrote.