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  Opinion   Oped  29 May 2017  Tragedy brings out true British values

Tragedy brings out true British values

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : May 29, 2017, 6:38 am IST
Updated : May 29, 2017, 6:38 am IST

Twenty-two people died on the spot and 59 were seriously injured.

An injured fan being escorted from the scene of a terrorist attack during a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester, northwest England. (Photo: AP/File)
 An injured fan being escorted from the scene of a terrorist attack during a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester, northwest England. (Photo: AP/File)

Never act with children and animals — they say in Hollywood. Pippa Middleton should have heeded that sage advice. Despite spending half a million pounds on her wedding and with a stellar list of celebrities wearing expensive frocks, it was the pageboys and bridesmaids who stole the show. In particular, it was George and Charlotte whom the hundreds of cameras were focused on. But then, fortunately, the news about the honeymoon on an island owned by Marlon Brando’s children hit the headlines — and she managed to make it back in the news. What a relief that Kate Middleton has only two siblings — were the family any larger there would have been a serious danger of them replacing the real royals.

Monday night became a nightmare as the first news of the Manchester bombing broke — it took away the false sense of calm we had been lulled into after the “lone wolf” attack on Parliament. There is obviously a concentrated effort by ISIS to destroy liberal life in the UK, including musical events which draw huge audiences. And this was even more tragic as the suicide bomber strolled in with a backpack, killing and maiming children much younger than him.

Ariana Grande is a popular young singer. The concert was a sellout with children as young as seven or eight right up to teenagers. Many of them came with their mothers and fathers. For some it was a birthday gift and for others it was to be an unforgettable experience. At the end of the concert at 10.30 pm, the bomb was detonated and by 10.33, there was mayhem. Twenty-two people died on the spot and 59 were seriously injured.

But Manchester rose to the challenge. People helped perfect strangers by sheltering them at their own homes, or driving them back to their residences. Hospital workers and firefighters along with the police have been remarkable. When tragedy strikes, it brings out true British values.

There was sorrow across the country. Vigils and community meetings were held. At the site of the tragedy, flowers, toys and dolls were placed as people went out of their way to show their grief.

The terrorist Salman Abedi died with his bomb. His parents had come from Libya and he was Manchester-born. Muslims of Manchester have boldly come out and asserted that they belong as much to the city as anyone else. They have been part of the health service staff and firefighters attending to the injured. They have been talking on TV channels. There is a determined attempt to focus on the crime and the criminal, specially the team behind him who made the bomb, and to separate terrorism from religion.

The UK has not had a large attack like this since July 2005 when London had four bomb incidents simultaneously. The present election campaign was suspended by the Conservative Party leader Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and only resumed on Friday. The police was busy across the country unravelling the conspiracy. So Army personnel had to take over police duties to release them. Ms May visited the site in between chairing Cabinet meetings to discuss the level of threat. The Queen managed to visit the Children’s Hospital where many of the injured were recuperating.

Shockingly, the police has now said it has identified more than 20,000 would-be jihadis within the country, according to some reports. This needs a serious rethink of policy, as condemning the attack and speaking out against terrorists/criminals is simply not enough. There needs to be a far more serious outreach programme where the Muslim youth are not left to be brainwashed by terrorists. It is still inexplicable why such a horrible and cowardly death is viewed by misguided youth as “heroic”.

The election is supposed to be a foregone conclusion, with a three-figure majority for the Conservatives. But over the last two weeks as party manifestos were published, a surprise reversal has taken place! Which happens when parties become overconfident… The Labour manifesto characteristically promised higher income-tax, nationalisation of railways and post offices and lots of public spending. It was the Conservative manifesto which came a cropper. It declared a new policy for financing elderly care. In summary it meant that your expenses on care would be recovered from your estate after your death, except for £100,000. This caused a furore and was denounced as “dementia tax”. Ms May had to do a U-turn and pretend that it had never been said. Hmmm… temporary dementia, of course.

The result is that despite all the negative publicity about Mr Corbyn, the Conservative lead in the polls has collapsed from 25 points to five points. If that were to be the election result, the Tory majority would drop from 17 to two. But after the Manchester bombings reality sinks in, things may change again. Though with elections round the corner, it is no longer smooth sailing for the Conservatives.

Tags: kate middleton, isis, manchester arena blast, salman abedi, ariana grande