'It's not going to stop me': Londoners defiant in wake of terror attack

Britons are displaying their stiff upper lip in the face of Saturday's terror attacks, while Prime Minister Theresa May is taking heat from election rivals for her speechifying about security.

Election on a 1-day pause, but PM Theresa May had plenty to say about security

A woman hands flowers to a police officer to lay on the north side of London Bridge following Saturday's terror incident. Britons are defiant in the face of the attacks that killed seven. (David Mirzoeff/Associated Press)

You'd be hard-pressed to find a wobble in that stiff upper lip Brits are so famous for, even as the full horror of Saturday's attack sinks in.

There's far more defiance out on the streets, especially here in London: a determination not to let the assailants win by spreading fear and hatred.

"It's not going to stop me from going to work," said commuter Patrick Dowling, as he laid flowers, not far from the popular Borough Market, where the attackers wielded knives after plowing into pedestrians on the nearby London Bridge.

"It's not going to stop me from doing what I do every day," said Dowling.

No one 'letting terrorism beat 'em'

"I saw the London Eye was packed," Lee Jenkins told CBC News. "No one is letting terrorism beat 'em and that's the spirit we need."

A man lays flowers at a corner tribute, not far from the London Bridge, on Sunday. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

But in the face of the third terror attack in Britain in as many months, there are tough questions ahead for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who emerged from 10 Downing Street on Sunday to deliver an "enough is enough" message.

"We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue to carry on as they are," she said.

Two days after Salman Abedi detonated a suicide bomb at a Manchester concert packed with teens and young girls last month, killing 22 people, May's Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she was confident that "the police and the intelligence services have the tools they need."

"We do engage with them to make sure they have necessary tools to keep us safe," she said in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today program.

But May is now calling for a complete review of Britain's counterterrorism strategy to "make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need."       

The prime minister also said Britain had become too "tolerant" of extremist ideology, calling for greater efforts to eradicate it "across the public sector and across society."

Theresa May says Britain has become 'too tolerant' of extremist ideology. (Reuters)

She said the changing and increasingly hidden nature of the threat, online in particular, meant the United Kingdom had to try harder to keep up with it.

"As terrorism breeds terrorism, and perpetrators are inspired to attack, not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots after years of planning and training — and not even as lone attackers radicalized online — but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack."

May accused of electioneering

After May announced a four-pronged strategy, the Labour Party's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry accused her of electioneering on security issues when the major political parties had agreed to suspend national campaigning out of respect for the victims.

Britain is in the midst of a snap election campaign called by May, ostensibly in order to have a stronger negotiating mandate in upcoming Brexit talks with the European Union.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, is perceived to be weaker on security issues. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)

May had earlier pledged not to call an election and critics have said she is trying to capitalize on what had been sizeable lead over the opposition Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But Corbyn has been gaining in the polls in recent weeks.

His critics believe he's weak on security issues, branded by opponents as an apologist for the IRA. Conservatives have also denounced him for suggesting that Western intervention is to blame for an increased threat from countries sponsoring terror.

The Labour Party is expected to resume campaigning at the national level later Sunday, while the Conservatives will pause until Monday.

Security top of mind

Politicians on all sides have insisted that to pause for any longer would to be to cave in to terrorism. The big tribute concert to the victims of the Manchester attack also went ahead, with an estimated 50,000 people in attendance.

There's no doubt that security is high on everyone's mind and will likely be just as high when ballots are cast on Thursday. But not everyone believes the government or the police can protect them, given the types of attacks taking place.

Three guys in a van with some knives. Anyone can do it.- Frank Mampaey

A vehicle and a knife were also used in the March attack on Westminster Bridge here in London, leaving five people dead.   

"I think it's difficult to stop these kinds of attacks, you know?" Frank Mampaey told CBC News, not far from London's busy Oxford Circus.   

"Three guys in a van with some knives. Anyone can do it. It requires hardly any resources — you just have to be crazy and unfortunately those are out there," he said.

"These things have been happening for a while. They will, dreadful as it might sound, will continue to go on for a while.


Margaret Evans

Europe correspondent

Margaret Evans is a correspondent based in the CBC News London bureau. A veteran conflict reporter, Evans has covered civil wars and strife in Angola, Chad and Sudan, as well as the myriad battlefields of the Middle East.