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UK remains on alert after London terror attack

June 4, 2017 at 5:48 PM EDT
Britain remains on high alert following Saturday night’s terrorist attack on two locations in central London. At least seven people died after attackers ran a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Malcolm Brabant joins Hari Sreenivasan from London.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The London bridge attack was eerily similar to the one in March, when a man ran over pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people, and then fatally stabbed a police officer before police shot and killed him. The bridge and market attacks last night also came less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people in the city of Manchester following a concert by pop star Ariana Grande.

Today, with heightened security, Grande performed in a packed Manchester soccer stadium in tribute to the Manchester attack victims and to raise money for their families.

Grande was joined by fellow music stars Coldplay, Marcus Mumford, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber. The concert is expected to raise $2.5 million.

NewsHour Weekend special correspondent Malcolm Brabant joins me now from London, not far from borough market.

Malcolm, three attacks in just a few months time. How is the U.K., how is London coping?

MALCOLM BRABANT, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPEACIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you talk to some Londoners, they’ll paint a picture of the city being a totally indomitable place, a place that’s lived through blitz with German bombs raining down, with the IRA bombing this place during the 1970s and 1980s. They said that London can cope.

But that’s only some people. I think others are generally puzzled by what has happened. This is the second attack in the city within two months, and there has been a real escalation, the sort of terrorism that took place on Westminster Bridge morphed into this, it became more efficient in the terms of the Islamists.

People here really don’t know what to expect. For example, I was just talking to a young chaplain, he says that whenever he runs across too bridge, he’s forced to be more vigilant. He has to look to see whether cars are mounting the curb. He also has two children, and he and his wife have got a plan that if something happens, they will each grab a child, and this is the way that people having to think these days because this sort of attack seems to be coming the new normal.

SREENIVASAN: Malcolm, you were headed there for reporting this week, leading up to the new elections and perhaps part of your story would have been the ripple effects of the Manchester attack that happened just a couple of weeks ago. Now, here’s this conversation. Does this have an impact on voters when they go to the polls?

BRABANT: I think it is going to. I mean, the Manchester attack happened two weeks ago and then people were saying that terrorism and security was going to have a serious impact on the elections. And then over the past couple of weeks, it’s gone away. And what’s really interesting about this is the way in which this has been playing out for the incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May. When she called this election, she really had a substantial lead, and over the course of the past two weeks, that lead has been dramatically eroded. And her rival Jeremy Corbyn, who’s widely regarded as being a bit of a left wing candidate has done extremely well in the polls, and so much so that he came within a hair’s breath of her in the latest opinion polls.

Now, this incident happened on Saturday nightly and that really has changed the dynamic of this election. And it has to be said: it may be to Mrs. May’s advantage because she was once the home secretary, and play to security is her strength. And so, she was able to present herself as the prime minister who is able to sort of talk in barely robust terms today outside Downing Street, and this is an area where the election is going to be fought.

And for tonight, for example, Mr. Corbyn is saying that he’s going on the attack saying that the conservatives have done a really bad job in the past by letting the people down, by cutting the number of police on the beat, and so, this is an area which is really going to play into people’s minds when they go into those voting booths on Thursday.

SREENIVASAN: All right. Malcolm Brabant, joining us from London tonight, thanks so much.

BRABANT: You’re very welcome.

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