Terror attack will have a direct and visible effect on election

In the hours after the London Bridge attack, a call came on social media for Thursday's UK general election to be postponed.

One man even began an online petition, saying it was time to "prioritise the safety of our country and its people" so the government should "call off the general election for the forseeable future".

But he only got a couple of hundred signatures.

The overwhelming mood in the wake of the attack was captured by London mayor Sadiq Khan, who said terrorists "want to stop us voting on Thursday??? we can't allow them to do that. We can't be cowed by terrorism".

"One of the great things about our way of life is democracy, and one of the things we can do to show we are not cowed is to vote on Thursday."

And prime minister Theresa May confirmed on Sunday morning the election would take place, saying violence must never be allowed to disrupt democracy.

Even if the mood changed, the election may have had to take place anyway.

As government minister David Davis pointed out, parliament has already been dissolved - technically there are no MPs. The election is probably locked in.

However the attack will have a direct and visible effect on this already extraordinary election campaign, which was only just emerging from the shadow of the Manchester attack.

National campaigning by the Conservatives, Labour, SNP and Greens was suspended for the day. Mrs May said it would resume on Monday.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the suspension was "a mark of respect for those who have died and suffered injury".

Only UKIP refused to join the suspension. Leader Paul Nuttall said "it is more important than ever for us to confront this evil with the democratic principles what have made this country what it is".

"It is our duty to drive the dialogue on how best to confront and defeat this brand of terrorism. That is what UKIP will be doing today and beyond. Therefore, I refused to suspend campaigning because this is precisely what the extremists would want us to do."

His decision won some praise from his followers, but was not universally welcomed even within his own party.

One UKIP councillor, Sam Watts, said he would personally stop campaigning "out of respect, not because terror has won".

As a matter of respect for the victims, there has been little open speculation about how the attack could influence the result of Thursday's vote.

It feels too soon, the loss and injury too great, to reduce it to political calculus.

But it is likely that the attack will influence votes.

The attack came at a time when Labour had continuing momentum, closing in on the Tories in most polls to within a few percentage points.

The government and Mrs May now have a chance to appear decisive and in control. Her speech outside Number 10 on Sunday morning was full of policy and purpose, outlining her government's plan to respond to the attack with a major new push against Islamist extremism, both online and in the community.

And Labour's senior figures have been attacked already for their position on terrorism.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who would be responsible for Britain's police and national security if Labour won government, has had a bad campaign.

She suffered an embarrassing interview in which she couldn't recall how much it would cost to deliver Labour's pledged extra police officers, then made several guesses at figures which proved wrong.

And she has also come under scrutiny for historical comments about the IRA.

Come election day, Labour will be hoping the mud didn't stick.

This story Terror attack will have a direct and visible effect on election first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.