Boris Johnson - We will end automatic early release
The Prime Minister joined Andrew Marr this morning to give his first extensive interview since Friday's terror attack on London Bridge. Usman Khan, who was previously convicted for his involvement in plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange in 2010, killed 2 members of the public, including 25-year-old Jack Merritt. Khan was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but only served half of that before being released under license. Marr challenged Johnson over why the Conservatives had not changed the previous Labour government's policy of early release for the most violent offenders:
“BJ: I think it's repulsive that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only 8 years. That's why we are going to change the law.
AM: You've been in power for ten years and you've done nothing about it...
BJ: ...We're going to bring in tougher sentences for serious violent and sexual offenders, and for terrorists. I absolutely deplore that this man was allowed out on the streets.
74 convicted terrorists have been released early
Marr also asked how many convicted terrorists there were in the same position as Khan. Johnson conceded that there were dozens of such offenders, but stressed that the relevant authorities were responding to the situation as a matter of urgency:
“BJ: There are probably about 74...
AM: What are you doing about them now?
BJ: I don't want to go into the operation details, but... they are being properly invigilated so as to make sure that there is no threat to the public.
There will be 40 new hospitals in ten years
Marr also pressed the Prime Minister on the government's NHS record. He read out a list of areas which needed improvement, including missed targets for waiting lists and cancer treatments, and attacked his campaign pledges as misleading. Johnson said that he recognised the pressures on the health service, but defended his ambitions for building new hospitals:
“BJ: I do not for one minute deny the pressure that the NHS is under, but that is why we are so determined to make huge investments in the NHS... There will be 40 more hospitals in ten years time...
AM: Seed money for a business plan is not a hospital...
BJ: You don't commit seed money for a hospital unless... you're determined to go on and do it.
'We will fix the crisis in social care'
Johnson committed to solving the problems facing the state of social care in the UK. Referencing William Beveridge, the Liberal MP recognised as the pioneer of the welfare state, the Prime Minister suggested that he would be reaching out to other parties to unite and find a way forward:
“BJ: We will fix the crisis in social care... I accept that the full plan needs to be developed... Actually, I think... that we are getting ready for a 'Beveridge moment' in our country, where people understand that we do need, as a nation, to tackle this issue.
There will be no checks between GB and NI
The Prime Minister added to confusion surrounding the nature of trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain under his Brexit plan. The Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, has said that exit checks on goods will be required. Johnson, however, begged to differ:
“AM: Will there be tariffs and checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain?
BJ: Absolutely not.
AM: ...So Stephen Barclay is wrong?
BJ: There will be no tariffs and there will be no checks.
My great grandfather 'knew the Qur'an by heart'
Marr confronted the Prime Minister with a quote he had made in 2005, where he said, among other things, that fear of Islam 'seems a natural reaction'. Johnson dismissed the quote as irrelevant:
“BJ: People are always going to drag out bits and pieces that I've written over the years to distract from the fundamental issues at this election. I have a record of campaigning against prejudice of all kinds. Indeed, I'm proud to say that my great grandfather knew the Qur'an off by heart.
I'll be interviewed by any Andrew from the BBC
Marr inquired as to why Johnson has so far shied away from a grilling from Andrew Neil, unlike all the other significant party leaders. Johnson kept the hope alive that such an interview may yet take place:
“AM: Why are you avoiding being interviewed by Andrew Neil?
BJ: ...I’m perfectly happy to be interviewed by any interviewer called Andrew from the BBC.
Jeremy Corbyn - Police had no choice in London Bridge attack
Sophy Ridge interviewed Johnson's chief rival for the metaphorical keys to 10 Downing Street. Corbyn has previously expressed reservations at the police's shoot-to-kill policy, describing it as 'counter-productive'. She asked Corbyn about the police action taken against Usman Khan on London Bridge:
“SR: Were they right to shoot him dead?
JC: I think they had no choice. They were stuck with a situation where there was a credible threat of a bomb belt around his body... I think the police have to take what action they can to defend people in that situation.
Terrorists should 'not necessarily' serve full sentences
In contrast to the Prime Minister, Corbyn was not determined to toughen up the laws on early release further than already exist. Instead, he stressed the lack of resources experienced in the criminal justice system:
“JC: I think it depends on the circumstances, it depends on the sentence, but crucially depends on what they've done in prison.
SR: So not necessarily, then?
JC: No, not necessarily no... We'd properly fund our prison service... There [should] be a psychological assessment of somebody in [Khan's] situation before they are released [and] the parole board [should] be involved in making that decision.
IS defectors should be bought back to the UK
The conversation turned to Shamima Begum, the British teenager who made the journey to join the Islamic State in Syria in 2015. Corbyn made clear that he did not want to see Begum or any other British defector to IS stripped of their citizenship, telling Ridge that it would make the UK less safe to do so:
“JC: Stateless people [could] create another terrorist force of tomorrow... Surely, if somebody is a citizen of any one country, then it's up to that country to take responsibility for them, and that's why we've said that she should be brought back to Britain for questioning and possible charge.
My Brexit role is the 'honest broker'
On Labour's Brexit policy, Corbyn refused to nail his colours to the mast either way. Ridge pressed him on how he would vote in his proposed second referendum - for his renegotiated deal, or for Remain - but Corbyn was adamant that neutrality was the right path to pursue:
“SR: Is that really showing leadership - to stay neutral?
JC: Yes, because this country has got to come together... My role would be the honest broker...
SR: Would you tell us how you're going to vote [in the referendum]?
JC: You'll have to wait and see.
'We have apologised' for anti-Semitism
Earlier this week, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis declared that Corbyn and the Labour party were 'unfit for high office' due to pervading cases of anti-Semitism, which he deemed to be 'sanctioned from the top'. Corbyn also came under fire during his interview with Andrew Neil when he repeatedly avoided the invitation to apologise to the Jewish community. Corbyn's reply was that he had apologised previously, and that he regretted not moving faster to combat a serious problem:
“JC: We have apologised for and regret any degrees of anti-Semitism anyone has suffered...
SR: Do you think you've done anything wrong...?
JC: I wished our party had acted on it more rapidly at the very beginning, and dealt with it at that point... There is no place anywhere for anti-Semitism in our society, ever.
We should look at the size of the Royal family
In the ITV leader's debate, Corbyn said that the Royal family might benefit from 'a bit of improvement' after the scandal involving Prince Andrew's relationship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Ridge asked him what he meant by this:
“JC: I think the behaviour of individuals... is being looked at, shall we say? I do think the question of size of the family and all that they do... I think the public as a whole would want to see those kind of changes.
SR: So you think it's a bit too big, effectively?
JC: Well, I think there are a lot of people attached to the Royal family.
Sir Ed Davey - PM misleading over London Bridge
The Liberal Democrat's deputy leader has accused Boris Johnson of trying to pull the wool over the public's eyes regarding early release. He told Ridge that the coalition had already tightened up the law some years before:
“ED: He's misleading people about what the current law is. He's trying to say that there is earlier release now, but actually that was gotten rid of in 2012... Earlier release no longer happens... So what the Prime Minister is calling for has already happened.
Dominic Raab - Tougher sentences 'necessary to keep people safe'
The Foreign Secretary denied that his party was politicising the London Bridge attack after announcing that terrorists ought to be imprisoned for a minimum of 14 years:
“DR: I don't think after what we've seen... that anyone would think that taking the measures necessary to protect the public... as the overriding priority would somehow be politicisation. I think it's the necessary thing to do to keep people safe.
Shami Chakrabarti - Political parties could not have prevented attack
And finally, Labour's Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti told Andrew Marr that political parties should not be blamed for the London Bridge attack, but the prisons system as a whole could use some extra funding:
“AM: It is possible that there are deceitful, determined individuals who get through any system, and perhaps nothing needs to change?
SC: Perhaps. And that's why... I’m not prepared to say that any political party could have prevented what happened on Friday. But going forward, it would be a good idea to have more resources in the prisons system.