Theresa May’s threat to rip up human rights laws to fight terror has been condemned by Opposition politicians as a cynical attempt to revive her failing election campaign.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats insisted there was no evidence that human rights legislation had allowed the Manchester and London attacks to take place – or prevented action against terrorists.
Instead, Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, accused Ms May of a “diversion” from criticism of huge police cuts – while Nick Clegg said she was trying to revive her “lacklustre, flagging election campaign”.
Sir Keir said: “There is nothing in the human rights act that gets in the way of effectively tackling fighting terrorism.
“I can say that with this authority. I was Director of Public Prosecutions for five years. I worked very closely with the security and intelligence services and we prosecuted very, very serious criminals.
“And the Human Rights Act did not get in the way of what we were doing. This is a diversion.”
Mr Clegg, also speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said: “None of this posturing about human rights is about keeping us safe.
“It’s all about making up for her lacklustre, flagging election campaign. I think it’s very cynical and I don't think people will be taken in by it.”
The criticism came after Ms May, on the campaign stump last night, suddenly announced she would not allow human rights laws to stand in the way of preventing jihadis carrying out atrocities in Britain.
“I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terrorist suspects back to their own countries,” the Prime Minister said.
“And I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and the movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they are a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.
“And if our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change the laws so we can do it. If I am elected as Prime Minister on Thursday, that work begins on Friday.”
The pledge appeared to be a clear contradiction of the Conservative manifesto promise to keep Britain in the European Convention on Human Rights until 2022.
Separately, in an interview with The Sun, Ms May said she could seek to double the period for which terror suspects can be held without trial to 28 days.
That could require the Government to declare a technical state of emergency, as happened after the 2001 September 11 attacks, when indefinite detention was introduced.
Other measures could include curfews, restrictions on association with other known extremists, controls on where those under suspicion can travel and limits on access to communication devices.
Damian Green, the Work and Pensions Secretary, confirmed the next new Tory Government would re-examine Article 8, under which the right to family life can sometimes be used to prevent deportation.
“That would be one of the things that would need to be looked at. We all remember the cases in the past,” Mr Green said.
He claimed cases such as the deportation of Abu Qatada showed how “abuse of human rights legislation” could drag out cases for many years”, adding: “Any responsible government would want to take these measures.”Reuse content