British Prime Minister Theresa May is not only grappling with the aftermath of a terrorist attack ― the second in the U.K. in as many weeks ― that left seven people dead and dozens more injured. She’s also running for re-election and facing an uphill battle to convince Brits she’s equipped to protect the nation.
So she reinforced her commitment to national security Tuesday by vowing to change some laws.
“I am not going to announce lots of new policies on the hoof a couple of days before the election, but I can tell you a few of the things I mean by that,” May said at a campaign stop.
“I mean longer prison sentences for people convicted of terrorist offenses,” she went on. “I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terror suspects back to their own countries. And I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they are a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.”
“If our human rights laws stop us from doing it,” she declared, “we will change the laws so we can do it.”
May added that if she wins the election on Thursday, this work will begin the next day.
Authorities are still piecing together what compelled three attackers to plow a van into a crowd on London Bridge Saturday night before exiting their vehicle and stabbing several people at nearby Borough Market. Police officers killed all three suspects at the scene.
All had been identified as of Tuesday. Two of them were previously known to European authorities.
Saturday’s bloodshed marks the third terror attack in Britain in as many months. Another truck plowed into people on Westminster Bridge in late March, killing four. And a suicide bomber killed 22 people, many of them children and teenagers, at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on May 22.
May put in place a series of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures while she served as home secretary, but critics have said they’re not tough enough.
Her proposals this week are reminiscent of France’s controversial decision to impose a state of emergency following the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, which killed 130 people. What was initially described as a three-month period of heightened security, during which authorities could place people under house arrest and conduct raids at mosques and homes without warrants, is still in place a year and a half later.
May’s Conservative Party has been the favorite to win Thursday’s election, but a recent ITV poll showed the Conservatives’ lead over the Labour Party diminishing. It’s unclear how much the latest attack will sway voters, but a recent Ipsos survey found that terrorism is the second-biggest worry among Britons.