Everyday issues trump terror in London attackers' suburb


London (AFP)

In Barking, the suburban home to two of the London attackers, everyday issues such as health, education and housing trumped security for voters heading to the polls on Thursday.

The police probe into Saturday's fatal attacks in the city centre has focused on east London, with raids on homes and a string of arrests in the area.

The attackers drove into pedestrians on London Bridge before going on a stabbing rampage in Borough Market, killing eight people and injuring 48 others. All three assailants were shot dead by armed police.

Attackers Khuram Butt and Rachid Redouane lived a stone's throw away from the polling station at Saint Mary and Saint Ethelburga's church in Barking.

"This is the flat!" said 27-year-old Luke, standing by the entrance, pointing his finger at the apartment block where Butt lived.

"We were at London Bridge when it (the attack) happened," said Tania, 26.

Both insisted the terror probe has not swayed which political party they would support, and the pair brought their two matching bulldogs with them to vote.

The daughter of two doctors, Tania said the future of the state-run National Health Service was foremost in her mind, along with Britain's reliance on nuclear power.

"I'm also pro-immigration," she added.

Other people also insisted traditional issues, such as the economy, would have a greater impact on their vote.

Javed, 23, a recent graduate, said: "You're going to have security threats with whoever. I'm sure both parties don't want it to happen again."

He said terrorism should not influence voters' decisions. "It's what they (the attackers) want," he said.

"Security is not too bad; social issues are more important," said Sammy Owusu, 41, as he cast his ballot.

While Katherine, 30, said she was more concerned about "day-to-day things" than terrorism.

- 'Business as usual' -

Labour has held the Barking seat since 1945, with Margaret Hodge the incumbent since 1994. The seat attracted a high vote for the far-right British National Party in 2005 and 2010.

At the last general election in 2015, Hodge won 58 percent of the vote, with the anti-EU and anti-immigration UK Independence Party a distant second and the Conservatives third.

The negative publicity Barking has received since the London Bridge attack jarred with the regulars of Couleur Cafe, which is right by the local railway station.

"Business as usual," one said, while they sipped their drinks outside.

"You can't choose your neighbours," said another.

Estate agent Sadek Sayed has witnessed the changing demographics of the area since his family moved to Barking 22 years ago.

It is not only new arrivals from abroad but also people from north and west London looking for somewhere cheaper to live, he said.

The fact that two of the attackers came from Barking was "very unfair on the area", which he said was attracting lots of property investors from the United States and China.

"That person could have been (from) anywhere."

According to local Labour councillor Giasuddin Miah, who was touring polling stations on Thursday, the area was "really shocked" to find out that two of the attackers lived in Barking.

"We hate it," he said, emphasising that they were just two people out of 200,000 in a "very friendly neighbourhood".