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London terror attack: will the general election be postponed?

All parties except Ukip have suspended national campaigning again following the attack on London Bridge.

By New Statesman

In the wake of the terror attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, the Conservatives, Labour and other parties – with the exception of Ukip – have suspended their general election campaigning for now.

However, there have been questions over the poll itself – scheduled for Thursday, 8 June. The prime minister Theresa May said this morning: “As a mark of respect two political parties have suspended our national campaigns for today, but violence must never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process. So those campaigns will resume in full tomorrow and the general election will go ahead as planned on Thursday.”

This morning, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was not an “advocate” of delaying the election. “They want to stop us voting on Thursday in the general election and enjoying the democracy that we have,” he said. “We can’t allow them to do that.” The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has echoed this, saying the vote “must go ahead as planned”.

There has been no suggestion from the Conservatives that they are considering postponing or cancelling the general election. There is precedent for the former: in 2001, Tony Blair postponed the general election because of an outbreak of foot and mouth. It would require an order of council. 

However, it is not possible to cancel the vote – that would require a new law, and there are no MPs currently sitting.

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The Brexit secretary David Davis said this morning that Britain was “locked into” an election that day. “On the one hand, clearly we want to respect people who have been injured and killed,” he said. “We will want to pay proper respect and, therefore, we don’t want to carry on across it. But, on the other hand, the people doing this are doing this because they despise the freedoms we have and those freedoms can be the freedom to go out on a Saturday night or the freedom to cast a vote.”

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After the attack in Manchester, national campaigning was suspended for three days. However, it seems likely that most parties will take a shorter break this time, as the election is on Thursday.