I find it disturbing that the conventional view of most politicians and all broadcasters is that the political parties, in the middle of an election campaign, should not react to terrorist atrocities, beyond saying how much they dislike them. What is said is that politicians should not “make political capital” out of terrorism.
Why shouldn’t they? Are they not hoping to form the next government? Will the fight against terrorism not be one of the most important tasks that that government has to undertake? Why should the electorate be left in ignorance about what the politicians seeking its votes intend to do about terrorism?
Of course, some politicians are capable of crass statements when these atrocities are committed. Sadly, the President of the United States of America has been particularly crass. His criticism of the Mayor of London for saying there is no reason for Londoners to be alarmed by the increased police presence on the streets is an example of idiocy on a grand scale. He chose to pretend that Mr Khan had said that there was no reason to be alarmed by the terrorist attack itself, rather than by the increased police presence on the streets resulting from it. And he apparently has a television company called Fox which is said to be endlessly repeating the slander on his behalf.
Having laid in to Mr Khan (well, he is a Muslim – so fair game) the President then decided to tell us that last night’s terrorist attack in London showed why there should not be gun control. His point seems to have been, I assume, that if all Londoners were permitted to carry guns, foolish terrorists who only used knives would have been gunned down even more quickly than they were (it apparently did not occur to him that the terrorists might have gone for guns rather than knives if there was no gun control). It is nothing to do with us if Mr Trump wants all Americans to be armed, but he really should not tell us how much safer we would be in the UK if we made it much easier for criminals to get hold of guns.
But Mr Trump’s intervention is not the sort which most British politicians and the BBC are talking about when they solemnly tell us how bad form it would be for those seeking our votes to say anything about what they would do about terrorism. Their contention, as I understand it, is that terrorism is so horribly nasty that no politician should be allowed to gain votes by saying how he would cope with it. Mr Corbyn may think the answer lies in negotiating with suicidal fanatics and promising we will withdraw from all conflicts in the Middle East. Mrs May may think the answer lies in allowing the security services to eavesdrop on everyone’s conversations. But neither, so we are told, should be permitted to tell us his or her views. We should be content with their statements to the effect that terrorists are very beastly people whose understanding of Islam is entirely wrong.
Are we not grown up? Why should we not be allowed to know what our potential governors intend to do about an incredibly grave threat to our security?