General Election 2017: What the Ludlow candidates said about – tackling terror

The One Love Manchester concert last night was spirited, defiant and just the right way to react after the third terror attack in Britain within two months. A concert can never erase the torment of those mentally and physically scarred in the attacks. It cannot bring the dead back to life. It cannot heal the pain of their families. But it did lift the spirit of our nation.

Right now, terror seems set to define our age but I hope that will prove not to be the case.

At the open air husting hosted by BBC Radio Shropshire in Events Square last Thursday, a resident asked about how the Ludlow candidates would tackle the terror threat (listen here at 11:24). Here is what the want-to-be MPs said.

From left: Julia Buckley, Heather Kidd, Hilary Wendt,
Philip Dunne, Eric Smith and Peter Corfield

All the candidates spoke of the horror of Manchester and their concern for the victims and their families. But what would they do to keep people safe?

Philip Dunne for the Conservatives spoke of the government’s track record and of a review of what might also need to be done. The Green Party’s Hilary Wendt said deradicalization should be community lead and we must work for good governance across the world. Liberal Democrat Heather Kidd highlighted cuts to youth and mental health funding. For Labour, Julia Buckley called for more police on the streets, a responsible foreign policy and more cyber specialists.

Conservatives, Philip Dunne. We have been under a threat of terror for several years. Long history of this going back to the 70s and the IRA. Throughout that time, we as a Conservative Party have put at the heart of our mission keeping this country safe and investing in our counter-terror capabilities which are world class. As the head of MI5 said last week, we foiled five plots since the Westminster Bridge attack only two months ago. So, we do live in a very dangerous world and thankfully we have security forces and services that are generally doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe. We are going to be reviewing the tools that the police and counter-terror have, to ensure that they have got all the tools we need. We are not sure we need new legislation.

Green, Hilary Wendt. The Green Party’s position is that support for any organisation that uses violence is criminal and should be treated as such. That means we must support our police and our specialist forces adequately. We also need to have a proportionate response that is based on a genuine assessment of threat. We have to have a care for civil liberties. We have to not scapegoat certain groups. We have to make sure that deradicalization efforts are community led. In terms of a community-led deradicalization, that involves not just the police, it involves youth workers. That is one reason why I am very concerned about the cuts to youth services. It also involves teachers, it involves all of us. And also, what I think is important is acting responsibly internationally. I think what we must do is work in concert with other nations to ensure good governance, to tackle corruption and to foster state building. Because if you don’t do that, you end up having power vacuums and ongoing conflict which acts as a recruitment agent and also provides safe havens. There are countries across the Middle East, and also in Africa that are locked into permanent conflict, and I think that Britain, along with other nations, must work to resolve that.

Liberal Democrats, Heather Kidd. The most important thing now, is to look what exactly we can learn from how [Manchester] happened and tighten those things up. If someone wants to do one of these attacks, especially if they are a lone wolf, it’s going to be very difficult to stop it altogether. But we can tighten things, we can make it less possible, and make sure the funding is in the right place, whether its MI5, the police, whether it’s within the community. I am very concerned working with young people that the degree of poverty and support for people who have learning difficulties, who have mental health issues, is disappearing. I think that mental health issues are a fundamental part of all of this. Our party is looking at making sure there is better funding across all of those things. But I can’t tell you in all honesty, it’s not going to happen again.

Labour, Julia Buckley. At a government level, there needs to be a strategic response [to Manchester] and their needs to be an understanding of the current situation we are in. If we cut the police by 20,000, we are not going to be ready when these attacks happen. If we cut mental health funding, if we close down 600 youth clubs across the country, we are going to be heading towards problems. There are three things that a Labour government would do differently so that we are ready for this. Firstly, we would put 10,000 police officers back on the streets, so they are ready and they are there to protect us with a visible presence. There is no visible presence here in Ludlow, down the road in Bridgnorth. It’s a locked door and a phone number to Telford. And we need those people back on the streets. Across West Mercia we have lost 300 police. At a government level, we need to be responsible about our foreign policy, we need to understand the consequences of our actions. If we choose to get involved in wars on the other side of the world, we need to understand whether our actions are stabilising or destabilising the world order. We can’t allow pockets, countries, governments where there is no stable order because it becomes a breeding ground for terrorists. And that’s the third thing, we need a modern approach. The real threat is not a nuclear war, it’s an individual working on the internet with a cell from another country plotting a cyberattack. Labour want to employ a thousand more cyber specialists. They want to invest in the next generation, so that we are one step ahead, so we are ready for this, we are one step ahead, we are looking and we are ready to protect our country.