Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Why? Thoughts on terrorism too close to home.
I don't get it. Really I don't. I cannot begin to comprehend why someone would blow themselves up in the foyer of a concert hall filled with youngsters enjoying a fantastic night out. I doubt you can either. Yet someone did. Not only blew themselves up but planned the attack on the literally innocent - an audience mostly of young teenage girls.
For only the second time in my life - and that is twice too often - I've been looking at a terrorist attack from the point of connection rather than as a distant, shocked onlooker. Back in 1984 I didn't go to Party Conference but dozens of friends and colleagues did. As people were pulled from the rubble I worried that one of them would be someone I knew. Fortunately this wasn't the case but I recall - in days before mobile phones and text messaging - trying to find out.
Today, having been briefed about the Bradford people - including children - affected by the Manchester Arena bombing, I discover that one of those affected is a colleague's wife who had bought tickets for their daughters as a Christmas present - all three injured in the attack. They'll be OK it seems but it keeps running through your head how close it is - and how some Mums and Dads have a different and terrible shock to deal with today.
I've been involved in politics all my life. I get the passion involved and how sometimes is spins into anger. But what is gained by blowing yourself up among a load of children? What is achieved?
There will be a great deal of speculation. Lots of pointless chatter about who to blame and who's at fault. Fingers will point at religion, at past wars and at current foreign policy. Shouty arguments about the precise words used in a Tweet will crop up. And, in all this, we won't be an inch closer to understanding what made some young man strap on a bomb and blow himself - and hundreds of innocent girls - up in Manchester last night.
Right now we can pull together. Recognise the commitment, bravery and dedication of emergency services, doctors, nurses and others who responded so quickly to what happened. Plus the taxi drivers, hotel managers and Manchester residents who went out of their way to help. It's a reminder that most people are good people, regardless of size, shape, colour or creed, and that ordinary people will always do extraordinary things at these times.
But at some point we have to ask why the bombing took place. Not through some dull old analysis of geopolitics. Not by sweeping statements about Muslims. But simply by asking what made that person strap on that bomb and head off to murder and maim innocent girls having a great night out in Manchester. What got into their mind, infected their behaviour and made such a terrible act, in some evil and warped way, justified? We owe it to the 22 people killed yesterday, to their families and friends, to the injured and hurt, and to people everywhere who look on and simply ask: "why?".
For my part I don't get it.