Events, Dear Boy, Events (2)
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- Government’s Housing Proposals are “Total Madness” | Lord Greaves in House of Lords Debate
- Lord Tony Greaves Speech for ALDC/LDH Fringe Meeting in Bournemouth
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- Events, Dear Boy, Events (2)
- Events, Dear Boy, Events (1)
- Taking Back Control | Lord Tony Greaves
- Government Defeat in House of Lords on Brexit Bill | Liberal Lord Tony Greaves
- Brexit Bill Debated in House of Lords as Theresa May Looks on
The second of the three events I’ve been thinking about while fighting off a nasty virus was the “terrorist attack on Parliament” last Wednesday. In retrospect that description gives it a level of importance that it did not deserve, though the consequences for the people who were tragically killed and injured is no less than if some jihadi or other terrorist group had indeed mounted a serious and co-ordinated assault.
What is now clear is that it was the action of one very disturbed and deluded individual. He was armed with no more than a hired 4×4 car and a knife or two. Yet he was able to bring the seat of British democracy, the surrounding streets and an Underground station to a halt for the rest of that day, with the disruption only being slowly relaxed during the following morning.
It seems clear that Parliament was his target. It is not clear (and may never be) whether the deaths on Westminster Bridge were a result of a deliberate attack on bystanders, or loss of control – and driving into the wall and railings, as he came off the cycle lane in Bridge Street, does not seem a very rational thing to do – Carriage Gates would be the more logical place to crash the car.
A question that now has to be asked is whether it was a reasonable response to kettle hundreds of MPs and peers (and everyone else in the building) for five hours after the only attacker had been shot dead. I should say that I was not one of them: I emerged on to Bridge Street from Westminster Underground station a few minutes after it had all taken place, just as men in uniforms labelled “Security” were arriving to shoo everyone up towards the Embankment (followed by police who were rather more competent at persuading people to move!)
I went back down into the station to find the tunnel entrance into Parliament already closed and got out on to the Embankment just as armed police were setting up the cordon there. So I spent the afternoon watching from the Embankment then in café and coffee shop waiting for a message to go into the House which was first promised but never came.
I think that what happened was that the security services had (rightly, obviously) worked out a plan for what to do in the event of a serious and co-ordinated attack on Parliament. They set this plan in motion and they kept it going for 24 hours. The question is therefore: why did they not scale it back and go to Plan B when it became obvious (after perhaps an hour) that they were dealing with one deranged (and dead) man?
I think it is very serious that the MPs in particular were locked down for hours after a commonsense assessment would have said that the danger had passed. In particular why were they trooped over to Westminster Abbey and then held there for so long? And why were our elected representatives kept in the dark about what was happening for so long? Lessons need to be learnt and not just about the rather bumbling security situation at Carriage Gates. A plan B needs some thought. Together with the need to keep general traffic much further away from the palace perimeter which Westminster Council have blocked over the years.
Combined with the continuing clamp-down even into the afternoon the following day, and the organised step-by-step relaxation of the security through the day, it is difficult not the think that the opportunity was taken to turn the relatively minor attack into a full-scale training exercise. Meanwhile as some of the more astute commentators such as Simon Jenkins have pointed out, the huge over-reaction of the media and authorities has played into the hands of ISIS and other jihadists who have again had global publicity for nil outlay. At the same time it was reported without a blink that 130 civilians were killed by American bombs on Mosul.