Tuesday, July 12, 2005

There's no place like Home

In London earlier today, having gone down by train to Kings Cross. The tube lines there – with the exception of the Metropolitan line – were still closed down so we all trudge down to Euston to pick up the tube there.

On the hoarding outside Kings Cross are pinned hundreds of photographs, many duplicates, asking for help tracing missing persons – every nationality you could think of. We then pass the site of the bus blast – the road closed off and screened from public sight with huge tarpaulins on a scaffold frame. A press tent, with TV cameras, is set up and positioned outside the screen, boarded journalists smoking and chatting, lounging on folding chairs.

On the tube there is a young man, smartly dressed, and definitely foreign-looking, with a rucksack wedged between his knees. Irrational perhaps, but the twinge of nervousness is definitely there and I am glad when he gets off a few stops before mine.

Then to business, talking to a group of farmers about agriculture in a "post-CAP world". Even a year ago, such a theme would be laughed out of court, but they all listen intently, and ask many questions. If this gathering is any guide, the tide is turning. I will post on this theme when I have some time.

Back on the streets, the newspaper billboards are proclaiming the news that possibly four "bombers" were involved, three from Leeds – all of them British born. It is too early to make pronouncements, but it raises all sorts of questions about the "international dimensions" of this incident. These lads, and hundreds like them, I will have passed in the streets countless times, and would not have given them a second glance.

The thinking seems now to be that the explosives were possibly Chinese and, on the face of it, it would seem probable that there was an "expert" bomb-maker who made the devices. There the trail leads abroad, but there is by no means any EU dimension, and the emphasis on "little European" cross-border co-operation seems misplaced.

One other thought intrudes – and won't go away. We hear a great deal about the radicalisation of the young Muslim community, with all sorts of links made with Iraq, the American action and the rest. But frankly, living in the areas of Leeds that were raided today is enough to radicalise anyone – "mean streets" hardly describes them.

But also, there are the West Yorkshire Police. For a long time now, it has been obvious that that Force (it calls itself a "service") is out of control - or elements of it. Racist in parts, violent and truculent, and regulated under a complaints system that does not work, those of a mind can indulge in quite unacceptable behaviour – knowing they will get away with it unpunished.

Even as a white, middle class professional, I have come up against the thuggish element - and seen gratutitous violence on the streets. But for the veneer of civilisation, innate cowardice and the fact that I simply have too much to lose, there have been times when I could cheerfully have contemplated firebombing the local police station after encounters with West Yorkshire's finest. The Asian lads get it far worse, and have no chance of any redress. If you want causes of radicalisation, I would not entirely discount the behaviour of some of the police.

And what is the point of this posting? Well, I wrote on Sunday that "security begins at home". It ill-behoves Clarke to be rushing off to Brussels tomorrow with a briefcase full of ideas for EU initiatives on terrorism. There are things back here on which he would be better employed. At this stage, EU discussions are, at best, a distraction and, at worse, a dangerous diversion.

So, Mr Clarke, if security does begin at home, can we have a Home Secretary that stays at home and deals with it? There is, after all, no place like home.

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