Today, I support David Cameron. I support Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and every other democratically elected politician who stands up to terrorism. The things that divide us must be put to one side in favour of the ties that bind us together. There can be no other way.
There are levels and degrees of shock and anger, but anyone with a heart will today feel both emotions in spades. For the Bataclan, read the Bristol Colston Hall. The restaurants and bars could be those on Park Street. Stade de France could be Ashton Gate. This changes everything.
I was watching a football match on TV between Spain and England. I had spent an hour or so gushing at the brilliance of the Spaniards, bemoaning the ineptitude of England. As the goals went in, could things get any worse? In the blink of any eye, I realised the irrelevance of a football match. I changed channels to the BBC News channel. Eight people had been murdered in a shooting. Eight people, probably out for a Friday night beer and something to eat, their lives taken away. And then it was 20, 30, the grisly headcount went up. The stories emerged, lots of them, innocents killed in cold blood by sick cowards with automatic weapons, all, it seems, suicide murderers. Let’s not call them suicide bombers: they were suicide murderers. Do not glamorise them or anything they have done. They are not heroes or martyrs, apart in the eyes of the warped and twisted minds of their comrades.
This is the worst attack on France since the second world war. To date, 120 are known to be dead, many more are injured, some seriously, possibly some gravely. The total could reach 200, maybe more. The agony has barely begun, amid the carnage on the streets of Paris.
Somehow, we need calm voices from leaders and ordinary citizens alike and, especially from the media. I am concerned about the latter because of what I saw on the front page of the Sun today, the filthy Murdoch rag which went to press before the attack occurred. “Jihad it coming” roars the headline, referring to Mohammed Emwazi who was, we believe, killed in an American drone strike. It continues: “ISIS butcher John blown up” but, slipping quickly into a journalistic sewer, down from its normal place in the gutter, then launches into an attack on Jeremy Corbyn who had the temerity to suggest it might have been better if Emwazi, and not the Sun’s so called Beatle character Jihadi John, had been captured rather than killed. We can debate how on earth Emwazi possibly could have been captured but it is not just Corbyn who has no answers, neither does the Sun. No one does. I mention Corbyn in this piece not because I support him in any way, but because it’s irrelevant. Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers will never print anything he doesn’t approve of so take it as read that he sanctioned a political attack to fit in a story about a terrorist. And I mention it because I do not want the aftermath of last night’s attack to descend into cheap political attacks. At times like these, what divides us gives succour to our enemies. In the light of what happened in Paris last night, the Sun has made an editorial blunder not far from their initial Hillsborough coverage.
We all have our feelings about politicians and anyone who has ever read this website will know that I have my feelings about politicians and politics. I take a very different world view from the ruling Conservative Party and David Cameron is not my prime minister of choice. But that doesn’t matter. Just because I don’t support Cameron’s party doesn’t mean that he is not my prime minister. At times like these, I look to him to provide national leadership, I look to him to support the French people, I look to him to seek and provide solutions to seemingly insoluble problems, I look to him to stand up to terrorism. After world changing events like the Paris attacks last night, it is our democratic structures that provide the framework for our lives.
Close my eyes and I can imagine the scenes at the Bataclan as innocent people, out for a good time at a rock concert, were slaughtered in cold blood.
Do we allow the world to get still smaller? Do we now stop visiting Paris, as people have now stopped visiting Tunisia and Egypt? It was not long ago people could safely live and work in places like Iraq and Libya but increasingly we are being confined to our back yards. London, according to government advice, is as dangerous a place on earth so do we stop visiting the capital too? A million thoughts go by, include our fears and anguish about the world we are likely to bequeath to our children. But for now we must, somehow, stay strong.
My heart aches and breaks as I hear news of the people of Paris who are searching for their loved ones on the killing streets of Paris. How can they feel, what will they find, will they find their loved ones alive or will they too be among the dead? Even from this distance, I can almost feel the sense of panic, the feelings of hopelessness. There may be no end to this pain for many.
Whether you believe in god or not, you know, as I do, that the perpetrators of these terrible acts will not enter paradise. They have blown themselves to smithereens to no purpose whatsoever other than to terrorise others and to end their own lives. It is important that, when dealing with this kind of evil, that the very ideology and philosophy is challenged. There can be no reward on earth or beyond, if you believe in it, for the terrorist. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, I only wish there was a hell for them to go to.