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The Westminster attack… March 22, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Worth keeping in mind that after thirty odd years of armed struggle London was already ‘secure’ in most meaningful senses of the term. Or at least as secure as is humanly possible.

There’s going to be a lot about this and quite naturally, already four people have died, and at least twenty are wounded, and the thought is that there’s no security approach that can protect against a car driven by someone determined to wreak havoc with it and then die themselves. Curtail access to city centres or around political sites? How then to sustain cities? Increase the level of police and/or militarise the situation yet further? Again, we’re talking about cars or trucks or buses here (though it’s difficult to see how the attacker entered the precincts of the parliament – was it a case of going across or through the fence?).

Of course zones around those sites takes away the iconic significance somewhat. But it is the low level of this attack, not in the sense it hasn’t caused grievous casualties because obviously it has, but rather the means utilised that is problematic. No one has claimed responsibility as far as I am aware, but let’s assume it is of a piece with other ones not dissimilar in nature. They’re sporadic – these aren’t frequent events, anything but. And then there’s the point that they don’t have a political aspect to them in regard to fitting a clear agenda of achievable goals. And fundamentally they can’t be prevented with one hundred per cent certainty. Yet not difficult to see how this will be used by certain political forces as well to ratchet up tension, to appeal to the right and far-right.

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1. sonofstan - March 22, 2017

The palace of westminster is more exposed than you would think; the entrances are much closer to the road than for, say, leinster house. Downing St is much more heavily fortified

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WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2017

You’re right. I imagine that will see everything pushed back half a mile around it. And perhaps access by trucks vans etc at night? They’ll have to do something if only to show they’re doing something. The point was made that it is very busy there with tourists, workers etc milling around during working hours.

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sonofstan - March 22, 2017

“Pushed back half a mile”

Very difficult though. The houses are supposed to be moving out soon, one then the other, for repairs to the building. Possibility of deciding to move out permanently? Would be a pity. I’ve been there a couple times recently for committee meetings and surprisingly accessible and not ott with security. which as you say, will probably change. But, and not what you’d expect, it feels quite, well, democratic – lots of the general public milling about.

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WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2017

Ive never been, but yes if would be a pity.

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WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2017

I meant to ask, how difficult is it to get access? I’m presuming it’s through prearranged tours?

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Michael Carley - March 22, 2017

I’ve been there to lobby MPs a couple of times. Very easy to get in but you do have to pass airport type security.

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sonofstan - March 22, 2017

We were there by invitation to hear the all party ctte on music consider some reports. I think, probably like the Dail, the most normal way is to be invited by your MP or a local peer. However, i also know that it’s not all that difficult to arrange a bash on the terrace or in one of the bars – even if you need a member of one of the houses to sponsor you. There are tours as well , and you can take your chances and queue for the public gallery i think.

What was surprising, as i said, was the busyness and unpretentiousness of most of what was going on. I know the Dail is like that, but i guess PMQ had led me think that Westminster was ridiculous all the time. Someone i was with, looking for a loo, got close enough to give Michael Gove a slap. But sadly didn’t.

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WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2017

In a way I’m surprised and in a way I’m not by what you say. Good security but clearly not impregnable. And what you describe about the milling about is familiar enough to anyone who has been to the Oireachtas – the idea being that if you’re in you’re ‘safe’. I can imagine though seeing Gove et al up close must be an odd experience (on a complete tangent there was a time when I’d have recognised scores of BLP MPs, and probably a lot of Tory and LD ones too – now I doubt I could picture more than twenty really).

Again, the oddity of today wasn’t the sheer awfulness of what happened but how – and I use this very advisedly given that awfulness – amateurish it was (though I suppose that’s of a piece with similar attacks) and the fact the person got in that close across a fence/wall.

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Alibaba - March 23, 2017

Yes, you say what I was thinking when you mentioned ‘amateurish’. Truth to tell there were very few killed, but so disgusting with all the ramming and creating fertile soil for the far right.

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WorldbyStorm - March 23, 2017

A not entirely dissimilar threat level could, arguably, be experienced in relation to drunk drivers or a town centre on a Saturday night but there – in fairness – its expected whereas it wasn’t (or not as such – because clearly there are precautions) outside a site like Westminster. And yet it should be. It really is terror with almost no political content whatsoever. And the media fall over it. Many of us here are old enough to remember Belfast in the 70s and even in a way London in the 80s and early 90s. That was a continual ongoing level of violence that was many times greater than this and – and this is in no way to diminish the terrible loss in regard to the murders yesterday and the pain of those injured and the loved ones left behind – and yet its frequency blunted its reality in some way whereas this is much lower level, much less frequent but seems to generate if anything much greater fear (though that again could be media driven). The old line about an ‘acceptable level of violence’ is very much in the forefront of my mind – and that seems to shift that level. On the one hand I think that’s good, the toleration and acceptance of violence is considerably lower than it was. On the other it may mean that excessive measures are contemplated in response to it and the political effects and impacts (particularly on the far right) are deeply problematic.

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sonofstan - March 23, 2017

@MC- I can see the Daily Mail headline now: ‘Irish Lefties on site sympathetic to terror boss McGuinness boast of easy access to Houses of Parliament’

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Alibaba - March 23, 2017

You’re right, of course, but hang on. Ten years ago 50 plus people were killed in London. Last year in Nice a truck driver killed 86 people and left 434 injured. These facts and comparison is a legitimate exercise. I am struck by the lack of grace and idiocy of the media in whipping up the hysteria, causing needless pain to the loved ones of the victims, pandering to the vile satisfaction of extremists and gifting the detonator for more repressive measures. Nothing should stop us from railing against what is wrong.

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WorldbyStorm - March 23, 2017

And the thing is that following in from your points Alibaba (though I don’t think SOS was disagreeing but rather pointjng up the two faced media discourse) it seems to me that in this instance the security posture was oriented towards bombs etc rather than this sort of low level attack. Physical separators between road and pavement on streets around Westminster alone would potentially have decreased threats (granted a driver could go through a crossing but spped bumps etc could lower approach speeds) and so on. In a way it is odd that such measures weren’t implemented before now (or time based traffic exclusion and rerouting) particularly after Nice etc. The potential for death in large numbers like Nice is always there but it’s not impossible to push back against with relatively reasonable measures.

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2. irishelectionliterature - March 22, 2017

The first thing I thought of when I read this about prepartaions for when the Queen dies is that it may be very vulnerable. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/16/what-happens-when-queen-elizabeth-dies-london-bridge

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WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2017

How do they police that or indeed any other public event?

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3. 6to5against - March 23, 2017

it will be very interesting to see the response to this attack, and whatever response there is has to be understood as being a political act as much as a security one.

I remember living in London in 1990/91. At the time there were regular bomb attacks: at one point there was a pattern of a bomb going off every Monday over a period of 2 months or so. There were warnings given and casualties were restricted, but its not like they were pretend explosives. people did die and many more were injured. In the same period, the IRA launched a number of mortars at Downing St.

What I find notable in retrospect is just how little a response there was. We didn’t see large sections of London closed down. There weren’t hotlines set up so that people could check on relatives. Most of these attacks weren’t even headline news by the Wednesday. There was little or no popular outcry, and I don’t remember the attacks being part of casual chat in the workplace at all. (The only response I found at all objectionable was the mirror published a piece asking their readers to be on the lookout for people with ‘suspicious accents!’)

Obviously one reason for the different response now is social media, and another is the fact that attacks have become rare in the meantime. But any introduction of new restrictions on freedom arising from this have to be seen as being what they are: political manoeuvring. Not policing.

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WorldbyStorm - March 23, 2017

I was living there at much the same time as you and would 100% agree with your points. All this has completely fallen down the memory hole in the UK. I find it bizarre.

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sonofstan - March 23, 2017

It’s been an interesting and slightly discomfiting week to be Irish in England. When MmcG died, I realised that, to people around me, he was either a) unrepentent terror chief or b) some Irish pol they were vaguely aware of. I knew I was the only person in my immediate work circle for whom this was truly significant, one way or the other.
Similarly, yesterday, while I was aghast at the news, and London is somewhere I am a couple of days a week, it didn’t hit me where I live the way it did English people for whom an attack on Parliament, even a ham-fisted one, is deeply significant and troubling. Whereas an attack anywhere in Dublin, no matter where I happened to be would turn my stomach inside out and upside down.
Sometimes I think the exaggerated media outrage is people substituting for a lack of feeling. Whereas in the 80s/90s there was more of a correspndence between ‘real’ feeling and its reporting.

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6to5against - March 23, 2017

Yes. A ‘memory-hole’ seems to describe it. And yet most senior people in news rooms around London are presumably somewhere in their 40s and 50s. And you would have to imagine they were at least current affairs junkies in their 20s. Can their memories really be so short?

Or perhaps all my assumptions are invalid and the world is actually being run by children……

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