Do you feel safe? It should be a simple question to answer, should it not? Although at this moment in time, if you are residing in our nation’s capital, you may be struggling to answer this with confidence and certainty. At 8:20 on Friday morning, Britain was hit with a phrase which has become only too familiar as we turn on our TV’s, or surf online – “Terrorist incident”. The incident at Parsons Green station saw 29 civilians injured after an ‘improvised explosive device’ was detonated on a London-Bound District Line train; the device was carried onto the train in a white bucket wrapped in a supermarket bag.
Despite being the first terrorist incident in the UK which has not resulted in any deaths, Parsons Green will join the long, ever-growing list of attacks which should never have happened, and to some extent, could have been prevented. As always in times like these, our emergency services responded swiftly with great courage and professionalism, which is, of course, highly commendable. However, serious questions need to be asked of Theresa May, and particularly Sadiq Khan, as to whether enough is truly being done to protect the public from the terrorist threat we continue to face in London and across Britain.
When an ISIS terrorist can take a large bucket of explosives onto the London underground, it's time to ask @SadiqKhan tough questions.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 15, 2017
Being from the Midlands, I rarely have any need to visit London, but due to today’s climate, I find myself actively avoiding the city, and often worry about the relatives of mine who reside in and around London. This represents a sad indictment of the society we are living in when the possibility of a terror attack enters your mindset and becomes a factor in your decision to visit, or in my case, avoid major cities such as London.
This is the fourth terror attack which has taken place in the capital since Sadiq Khan was elected as Mayor in May 2016. The former Member of Parliament for Tooting had previously come under fire after stating his belief that terror attacks are “part and parcel of living in a big city”. At the time of making these remarks, Mr Khan also insisted that nothing is more important to him than “keeping Londoners safe”, although the number of terror attacks which have since occurred would suggest this has simply not been the case.
In May 2017, it was revealed by sources at Whitehall that intelligence officers have identified 23,000 jihadist extremists currently living in Britain as potential terrorist attackers. However, it later emerged that 2 out of the 3 attackers who carried out the London Bridge attack in June 2017 were not amongst the list of the 23,000 jihadist extremists, and therefore, were not being monitored prior to carrying out this attack. Not only does this demonstrate that the scale of the problem is bigger than expected, it also suggests that many more potential extremists have fallen under the MI5 radar – A terrifying prospect.
What action has the government taken in light of Parsons Green?
Theresa May has raised the terror threat level to ‘critical’, meaning another attack is expected imminently. The last time this threat level was raised by the Prime Minister was after the Manchester bombing, at the pop concert of US singer Ariana Grande. The most notable action which was instantly enforced was the increase in armed police officers at Parsons Green and other stations across London. The Prime Minister also stated that as part of ‘Operation Temperer’, military support would be provided to police force operations in order to provide additional security and protection across London and other protected sites in the UK.
Whilst military presence on Britain’s streets may be viewed as a reassurance to many members of the public, others may well be feeling that the action taken by the Prime Minister is too little too late. Public services such as our police force are often a victim of austerity – This is the reason adopted by Sadiq Khan as to why Britain is so vulnerable to terrorism. Despite such cuts taking place within the police force, tough questions still need to be asked as to whether enough is being done to prevent terrorism in Britain, especially taking into the account the number of extremists identified by intelligence officers at Whitehall and the lack of knowledge surrounding their whereabouts.
It is yet to be seen whether the deployment of military presence will have a significant impact in the fight against terrorism, although, given the number of terror attacks which have occurred over the last year, there is a strong case that this action should have been implemented a long time ago. In Britain, we pride ourselves on the fact that it hasn’t been necessary for our police officers to bear firearms in previous years, but in my view, the government needs to accept that we are living in a different political climate, a climate where we are facing new threats on a daily basis, threats to our democracy and way of life. With this in mind, I believe that the protection of our police officers must go hand in hand with the protection of the public, and one cannot protect the latter if they are unable to protect themselves.