The Friday Speed Read
This was a week when all talk of Brexit, Trump and Putin was eclipsed by the return of terrorism to the streets of the UK. It was Wednesday afternoon when a man drove a hire car at speed into crowds of locals and tourists on Westminster Bridge before entering the gates of the Palace of Westminster and stabbing a policeman to death.
In the world of instant news alerts and the all-seeing eyes of social media, the facts of what had happened were pieced together very quickly and, in a manner that we’re getting horribly used to, the confirmed toll of dead and injured ticked upwards and we all shook our heads gravely.
News footage of a man taking a selfie against a backdrop of a phalanx of ambulances was a particularly damning symbol of a society addicted to itself, inured by the detachment born out of life viewed through a screen.
As ever, in amongst the horror and disbelief, people were amazing. The emergency services were rightly lauded by Theresa May and the sacrifice of PC Keith Palmer is as humbling as it is crushingly sad. But everywhere we looked, or at least everywhere we could look, we saw people helping people. People battling to save the lives of strangers. People stemming the blood of terrible wounds, inflicted on the old and the very young. An MP gave mouth-to-mouth to the stricken policeman. Paramedics rushed to tend to the bullet wounds of the murderer; providing the sort of non-judgemental fight for life, any life, that was the direct opposite of the views presumably held by their patient.
People were amazing. But then they always are.
The newspaper front pages the following day were united in way that that’s not happened since the last large-scale tragedy. There was a lot of talk of British values, how our spirit as a nation won’t be broken by terrorism, how London is a resilient city that will stand up to all that threaten it. There was a lot of pride in amongst the sadness.
Not that all reactions were so positive. Nigel Farage appeared on Fox News in America, looked grave and said that this kind of attack justifies Trump’s travel ban for those born in untrustworthy Middle Eastern states. Terrorism is inseparable from immigration policy he implied.
Shortly afterwards, the police revealed that the Westminster attacker had been born in Kent.
A day later and the papers had had more time to assemble their reportage, printing yet more graphic images from the day and giving the kind of details of the lives lost that remind you that even a single death is an unimaginable tragedy. But despite the sincere coverage, despite the admirable belief in British resilience shared by papers of all political views, a question was emerging; one that can’t be simply answered in leader columns and letters pages:
How a British bloke called Adrian could reach a point in his life when he’d deliberately drive a car into a column of strangers, including a group of children, and then repeatedly stab an unarmed policeman to death?
Have a good weekend. We’ll be back next Friday after what we hope will have been a better week.