June 5, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
Yesterday morning my two kids (aged seven and nine) were building things with Jenga blocks. We had just watched the news and they were full of questions about what had happened at London Bridge, and why. Given they love Ariana Grande, they also knew what had happened in Manchester. They decided to build a stage, on which they could put a little Lego Ariana to perform. My seven year old then said ‘let’s pretend it got blown up’. As I write this they are investigating who did it, and why. This is the world we live in now. So many questions, so few answers.
When a city has just elected a Muslim mayor it should be rather difficult for the traditional narrative justifiying terror attacks to cut through. Londoners oppress Muslims? What, by putting a Muslim in charge of us? That the London Bridge attack took place so near City Hall, the seat from where Sadiq Khan has for the past year done a fine job of representing all Londoners, is something that must be noted.
So this was a double attack on democracy. It took place four days before a General Election took place, although it is hard to work out what the terrorists would want to happen in that one, given the choice is between Theresa May, who is more likely to respond by clamping down in an illiberal way, or Jeremy Corbyn, who has spent the past forty years excusing (he would argue explaining) their actions.
To be fair to the sad brainwashed idiots who so ‘bravely’ rammed their van into people on London Bridge and waded into crowds of defenceless revellers armed with 20 inch blades, they aren’t interested in democracy. I’m not sure they are interested in anything. They will have been carefully groomed to the point where they are prepared to kill civilians and die themselves, by people who, remember, would still be planning these attacks even if our troops had never set foot outside Britain’s borders.
But affect democracy it will. Both campaigns will have had major events and strategies planned for this final week, which may have to be moved, although national campaigning starts again this morning.. At some point someone on either side will say something inappropriate about the other side, linked to these attacks, and the other side will use that for political gain. The self-appointed social network police will be trawling the internet looking for someone’s comments to start a twitter storm about. We won’t be having the vital conversation we appeared to be having about the economic model Labour were proposing. The election will be affected.
What can we do about it? I don’t know. Nobody does. I am fed up of writing about the ‘greyzone’ we have to maintain in which all cultures live happily alongside each other (Khan’s election as Mayor was part of that). My understanding of Islamist radicalism is that it cannot be negotiated with. But the policy implications of that are horrid. Theresa May came out and said that we have to change our approach, possibly giving up some liberty for our safety, as the Internet is clearly being used to plan these attacks but the Government lacks the consent or political support to police the internet more. Perhaps there will be more military involvement in the places these people are being trained…even though it was that military involvement that led to the chaos in which the training camps thrive. Who knows what will work.
All I know is that we are at the stage where a nine and a seven year old have started to incorporate terrorist attacks into their play. That is surely what the planners of these atrocities want. So something has to change.
A final word about the police. They get a lot of scrutiny, rightly, for what they do. They aren’t perfect as an organisation and have made some mistakes. But we should all remember that whilst our natural instinct would be to run away from attackers like these, the police force’s natural instinct is to run towards them. We hear that the first officer at the scene tried to take all three knife-wielding maniacs on with just his truncheon to protect him. The armed officers who shot them will now have to put down their guns and take a desk job whilst their actions are investigated, and may never be able to be on the streets armed again. Sometimes, just sometimes, we should give those that protect us the credit they deserve. This is that time.