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We've been here before

Posted by Helen Thursday, July 07, 2005

I have spent much of the morning answering worried phone calls and e-mails as well as phoning people myself. We Londoners are grateful for people's interest and support. Forgive us for being a little blasé. We have been here before and we like to think that we can cope with bombs and emergencies. And no, I am not talking about the Blitz but the IRA bombing campaign that went on for many years.

Still, this one is horrible in its co-ordination. These bombs were not randomly planted. If you look at the map you will see that there was a carefully worked out plan to cause as much mayhem as possible though, luckily, it seems not as many casualties as was feared at first. We are still holding our breath on that, but it would appear that the early panicky rumours flying around the internet were wrong. (Of course, this may be wrong as well.)

The bombs went off in a line around the City and the West End as people were coming in to work. (In a rather bitter fashion I have to ask myself how the terrorists knew that the trains and lines they selected would actually be working, as several were not this morning as any other morning.)

Apart from the updates on casualties and suchlike, I have been following the statements made by various worthies. The biscuit must go to the Lib-Dim Simon Hughes who said that it was particularly unacceptable to have these bombs the day after we celebrated getting the Olympic Games. Would they have been acceptable otherwise?

Tony Blair, having first said he was staying in Edinburgh, has clearly been told that it might be a good idea to put in an appearance. Not that it matters, but proprieties must be observed and, at least, he has said that we are all united in our determination to defeat terror. One hopes that means we shall not see a Spanish-style caving in, but one can never tell.

Statements condemning the attacks have come from all sources. The G8 leaders have called it barbaric and have vowed to carry on with their meeting. Much as I think it is a waste of time, it is important to carry on with life as far as possible. The alternative is handing the victory over to the terrorists.

I have no doubt tomorrow London Transport will carry on as before with stoppages, faulty trains, non-working points and signals.

Quite priceless comments have come from Singapore. Ken Mills, chief executive of the London bid team has said that he is totally distraught. Well, what a shame. What a good thing people in London, including the emergency services, who deserve nothing but praise, are not distraught.

As for Hizonner, he has surpassed himself. Unable to do his Giuliani act because he is still in Singapore, possibly worried that people might remind him of his friendship with, and taxpayer-funded hospitality to Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, who shamelessly praises terrorism and suicide/homicide bombing, Our Ken has come out with a corker of a statement:

I want to say one thing: This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners.

Right. So, if we find out that most of those killed and injured were middle class or non-Londoners then it will not matter.

Hizonner then went on:

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's mass murder. We know what the objective is. They seek to divide London.

Well, no. I don't pretend to know precisely what goes on in these people's minds, not having been all that chummy with terrorists, unlike Hizonner, but I would guess that dividing London is not the primary objective. Killing people, spreading mayhem, trying to frighten Londoners and others in this country, undermining the economy – I can imagine all these thoughts flitting through their diseased brains. But dividing London? Hizonner must get a better scriptwriter.

Charles Clarke has been his usual unimpressive self. How soon will he say that this proves the need for ID cards? Will the Conservatives attack him over that? Let us hope so.

Menawhile, Sir Ian Blair, speaking the first sensible words of his recent career, has asked the media to be careful with their reports and on the whole they have obliged. Only hard facts and reasonable stories are being reported.

Sky News, according to Deutsche Welle, did say that the Army was moving in to restore order in London but if they did, they speedily left because there was nothing to do. There is no disorder in London at the moment. The anarchist battles are in Scotland and even there the police seem to be coping.

I have no doubt the army has moved into a position of readiness, just in case, but that is not the same as restoring order in a city where people are too busy calling each other to find out that they are all right and, if they are at work, wondering how they will get home, to riot.

An anonymous US law enforcement official seems to have stated that there were 40 dead. He wanted to stay anonymous because he had heard this from his British counterparts and no official statement has been made. If this US official does exist and has not been invented by a journalist, he presumably was also told by the British counterparts that they would rather not have news filtering out until there is an official announcement. So what was he thinking of, blabbing to the media like that? If, as I say, he exists.

The Metropolitan Police has now confirmed 33 deaths. You might say that the anonymous US official was not far wrong, but I still maintain he should have kept quiet.

And so to the rumour mill. Looking at some of the websites and e-mail lists, one would think the place has disappeared into a giant crater. Number of casualties are being estimated in their thousands and a complete shut-down of London is described.

I understand from others, who have read more of this rubbish than I have, that conspiracy theories are flying round. Of course, it could not have been Al-Qaeda according to these people, even if some unknown branch of it has claimed responsibility and it bears all the hallmarks of that nasty organization.

It had to be the British/American/Israeli security services for incomprehensible reasons of their own. Well, whatever keeps people happy.

Whoever is responsible (and, I think, we shall find out reasonably soon), London will survive. And all of us will hope that some effort will be made to deal with the actual perpetrators.

We shall be posting updates on the blog as and when it will appear to be necessary.