Johnson Bolsters Security Message After London Knife Attack

Jessica Shankleman and David Goodman

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Boris Johnson’s Conservatives will paint their party as one of law and order on Monday, while London reels from a terror attack and prepares to welcome Donald Trump this week for a NATO summit.

Both the president’s visit and the deadly assault threaten to derail campaigning and crimp the Tories’ lead over Labour, less than two weeks before the U.K. votes in the general election.

When Trump lands in London on Monday, Johnson will be hoping he doesn’t say anything that hinders his lead in the polls. Trump’s support would play into the hands of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who says the two men are right-wing soul mates who pose a threat to the U.K.’s National Health Service.

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Johnson is also trying to distance himself from the previous Tory administration after convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two people on Friday in central London. Khan had been released early from jail in December 2018 and was attending a conference on prisoner rehabilitation when he launched his attack.

A poll released Monday added to signs that Labour is slowly eating into the Conservatives’ lead before the Dec. 12 vote. While the Tories stood at 42% in the latest Survation poll, they were ahead by just 9 percentage points, down from 14 two weeks ago.

Johnson is seeking to capitalize on his strengths. Voters trust Johnson significantly more than Corbyn on security. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showed found 44% of voters have confidence in Johnson. For Corbyn, 67% of voters don’t have confidence in him, while just 21% do.

With that in mind, Home Secretary Priti Patel will double down on the Tories’ message that delivering Brexit could bolster U.K. security. She’ll reiterate that Brexit can give back to the U.K. control of its borders to help reduce smuggling of goods, people and curb terrorism.

Her comments come amid a row between Johnson and Corbyn over the early release of the attacker. Corbyn blamed a decade of spending cuts to the prison service for weakening its ability to detect the risk, while Johnson pledged to end a 2008 law that was brought in under a Labour government that gives prisoners automatic early release.

Patel also will speak following the late October discovery of 39 bodies in the back of a lorry in Kent, southeast England, after having been smuggled across the border into the U.K.

“People traffickers don’t think twice about risking people’s lives for profit,” Patel will say. “And most shockingly of all we know that terrorists have been able to enter the country by exploiting free movement.”

Corbyn will seek to return to a debate on the cost of living, with a promise to cut train fares through state ownership of the railways. On Saturday, millions of commuters learned they will have to pay an average of 2.7% more for rail tickets from Jan. 2., which is about 100 pounds ($129) more per year.

The party leader is due to announce more details of Labour’s plan for public ownership of the railways, including a 33% cut to regulated fares that the party says will save the average commuter 1,097 pounds a year.

”Taking back control of our railways is the only way to bring down fares and create a railway network that is fit for the future,” he’ll say.

(Updates with Survation poll results in fifth paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net;David Goodman in London at dgoodman28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Steve Geimann

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