The sad and very tragic terrorist event that took place on Saturday evening in the London Bridge area killing at least seven people, injuring dozens more of whom 21 remain in a critical condition demands not only strong rhetoric and leadership from Government but also consistency in the form of absolute determination that we do more to ensure that Britain is better protected from a small minority that are seemingly determined to do us harm. (Photo: BBC)
Declaring that ‘enough is enough’ Prime Minister Theresa May responded to the third terrorist attack against innocent civilians in the UK this year declaring that a sweeping review of Britain’s counterterrorism strategy would now be conducted. She also said that the Government would now intensify its counterterrorism effort to deal with Islamist radicalism at home in an attempt to try and restrict safe spaces that it needs to breed both on the internet and in British communities.
Indicating that the Government might now extend the duration of custodial sentences for terrorist suspects Mrs. May said that more need to be done in binding communities together to combat what she called “a perversion of Islam” adding that “there is to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country”.
The Prime Minister is certainly right on the last if not all points that she made in her response to the London Bridge attack yesterday but I fear that there having been three attacks against innocent people either in London or Manchester over the past three months that we need to be talking a lot more than just extending the duration of custodial sentences.
Those to whom it has been proven would do harm against us or that have been found to so do should, in my view, face the highest sentence that a nation can take against a proven ‘aggressor’ or would-be ‘aggressor’ – that of treason. Since 1998 the sentence for treason has been ‘life’ but until the passing of the ‘Crime and Disorder Act 1998’ it had even after the death sentence for murder had been abolished remained as a hanging offence. There are those I am sure who might well believe that the 1998 Act might better to be repealed or that certainly, to the sentence of life, should be added hard labour.
Like all forms of ‘defence’ deterrence offers the best option for the establishment of consistent peaceful accord. So it should also be in the act of defeating terrorism and ensuring that those who would do harm against us know that harsh punishment awaits. That we know many of those that are seemingly ready to attack us are also trained and ready to die themselves has been proven by the number of suicide attacks but that should not prevent them from knowing that if they intend to harm us and they live that they will then be dealt with very severely.
There can be no quick reversing of the culture of over tolerance that has existed for far too long in this country. Fear that we will pay a higher price should we go too far in punishing those that would do us harm must be removed from our minds and we must be seen by all those that would do us harm and that place no value on our way of life as being intolerant of all that they would do and prepared to fight back.
For far too long it seems to me that successive governments have been stymied by the difficulty of finding a true definition of extremism and one that would hold up in court when challenged on the grounds of free speech.
In the process, we have it seems allowed ourselves to become far too politically correct in what we are allowed to say, in how we should think and react in response to attacks such as those that we have already seen and of those that we might foresee occurring in future. We should be under no illusion now that we are dealing with a vastly different and larger level of threat from ideologists that have no care for our way of life or for the people that they portend to represent.
We have in my view become far soft in our approach and in our response and I sometimes feel that we have allowed our laws to provide higher levels of protection to the attacker and far too little to the oppressed.
There is too much that we are no longer allowed to think let alone say. We are too easily silenced by political correctness and in doing so we allow others to take advantage of us. That extends sometimes to our even feeling sorry for those that would wish us harm and to believing that by taking a soft approach we might win back the hearts of those whose minds have been radicalised and trained to do us harm.
Terrorism is the worst form of attack because it is so random in the form of how it kills and maims innocent people. I have confidence that Mrs May has not only initially responded in the correct manner by calling for a rethink of how we approach the terrorist threat against us but that actions will speak louder than words.
Like all of you reading this I am saddened by what I have seen and my thoughts too are with those that have suffered. We must all be vigilant but equally if we are to succeed in what we want to achieve we must be dismissive of those that too easily wish to criticise those in authority. Rather, we should praise them for what they do and neither should we forget the number of attacks that they have prevented over the years.
Mrs May has also called for a global effort to regulate cyberspace but this is something that I fear is easier said than done. Indeed, if we cannot even agree internally and take a cross party approach on such matters, there is little possibility of achieving consensus externally.
Defence and security are the primary of all government functions. Let us hope that after years of pushing defence and security into the background if they could that the message of need for strong defence and security and for placing of sufficient funding around both is no longer to be ignored by this or any other government.
CHW (London – 5th June 2017)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785