From politicians to the public, common sense seemed to win the day
Less than 24 hours after a lone attacker forced his way on to the parliamentary estate, stabbing and killing a police officer, the House of Commons will discuss the construction of ‘the Ratty’s Lane incinerator in Hoddesdon’.
Hoddesdon is a small town in Hertfordshire, whose 20,000 residents are vehemently opposed to an incinerator being built on their patch. This unutterably banal piece of parliamentary process somehow encapsulates London’s calm, reasoned response to yesterday’s terrible attacks.
Of course, the seriousness of this incident should not be underestimated. At least three innocent people have tragically lost their lives and the British parliament has come under attack. For MPs, Lords and parliamentary staff, already under increased strain following last year’s murder of Jo Cox, this is a massive blow.
What’s more, this incident will be (and already has been) used to stoke fear and hatred of immigrants, people of colour and Muslims — heightening the hatred and division already gripping European and American politics. It may also be used to justify further restrictions on British civil liberties.
However, the ultimate goal of many terrorist attacks is to provoke an over-reaction and, so far, the UK has — in the main — refused to over-react.
Even Theresa May, not known for her restraint in these matters, issued a calm statement, focused on the professionalism of the security services and the stoicism of ordinary people.
“Londoners — and others from around the world who have come here to visit this great city — will get up and go about their day as normal. They will board their trains, they will leave their hotels, they will walk these streets, they will live their lives. And we will all move forward together. Never giving in to terror. And never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.”
Painful international experience has shown that this is the best response to incidents of this kind — not jumping to conclusions before the police have done their work, refraining from bellicose rhetoric and refusing to point the finger at any particular community, faith group or policy.
As Hend Amry, a well-known tweeter, put it: ‘I thought that whole keep calm and carry on thing was just to sell novelty coffee mugs and throw pillows.’ Turns out it may have filtered through.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.
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