I’d like to preface this by recognising the bravery shown today by members of the Metropolitan Police, especially the officer who was attacked.
When there is a “terrorist incident” in the Western world, the first thought on everybody’s mind is:
“Did the security services know about them? ”
“They should be keeping tabs on people to stop things like this happening!”
“Why doesn’t (insert area) have more police presence?”
These are valid questions, but many people also clamour for tighter Anti-Terror laws in the aftermath of attacks, leading to controversial legislation like the PATRIOT Act 2001 in the USA. There is often a demand for retaliation, and after 9/11, this directly lead to the War in Afghanistan, and indirectly to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. The World Trade Centre attacks also ushered in a militarization of the police in the US, as well as turning airports into areas more secure than many government buildings.
In the UK, we have always had a different approach to Law enforcement, born from the experience of terrorism Brits have endured from Republican extremists in Northern Ireland. Due to this, the British, and especially English people, treat terrorism like an inconvenience, rather than a huge deal. It is said that in the aftermath of the 2005 London Bombings, many Londoners complained about the disruption to the Underground and Bus timetables. The Manchester Bombings of 1996 have been joked about many times, with Jason Manford saying that it was a net benefit to Manchester as “No one died and we got a new Next!”
“No one died and we got a new Next!”
The British reaction to Terrorism has always been one of defiance, with the Glasgow Airport attacks in 2007 coming to mind, with one man, who I still maintain is my absolute hero, shouted “‘Mon Then!” and kicked one of the attackers, who was on fire might I add, square in the groin. This lead to the greatest headline ever printed on a newspaper (below) and no one has ever attempted an attack in Scotland since.
Now in the aftermath of the attacks at Westminster, we need to be vigilant that the Government does not use this to try to pursue legislation that is detrimental to the privacy and freedom of the entire nation. In this country we have a proud tradition of Human Rights and community policing. This means we need the police to keep firearms in the hands of specially trained Firearms Officers, and to not give guns to every Officer in the country. It isn’t in our nature as British people to have armed police and this is to our credit. Our police ensure that as many suspects as possible are arrested, charged and have a day in court, as is the way in a civilised society.
With respect to the tradition of Human Rights; we need to be careful that the Government does not infringe on people’s rights in the name of “Security.” The profiling of ethnicities, the warrantless surveillance of Internet usage, indefinite detention, Torture, the denial of due process, and even the denial of the freedom of expression. All of these Human Rights violations have occurred throughout the Western world, and we need to be vigilant that they do not occur on our watch. London, and the United Kingdom as a whole needs to bind together in this time of crisis and let the world know that we do not want to lose our freedoms, nor do we want to take other’s freedoms from them. Civilisations thrive when they take the moral high ground, when we violate Human Rights, we are no better than the terrorists who attack us, and the only way to defeat terrorism, is to act like the Londoners in 2005; just moan that it made your bus late and made you miss the beginning of EastEnders. Because when you starve terrorism of attention, you prevent the message being spread and, just like a schoolyard bully, when you prevent them getting attention, they eventually lose interest. Do Not accept the New Normal of Terrorism and the what it entails, and Do Not be afraid, show the world we don’t let terrorists make us do what they want.
Just as I went to Post this, the Prime Minister made a speech where she said that the ‘sick and depraved attacks’ which occurred today will not undermine British values. I can only hope that the Prime Minister agrees with me on what British values are (as we don’t agree on much else). I also want to put on record my respect and admiration for Tobias Ellwood MP, and I hope his courage, in going to help the injured officer and attempted CPR until emergency services crews arrived on the scene, is rewarded with the recognition it deserves.
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