Reflections on the Seventh of July
Yesterday is the first anniversary of the London bombings of 7 July 2005. Like many people I took two minute’s of silence to remember the innocent people who were murdered a year ago.
It is right that we should commemorate their deaths and the work of all the people, both from the emergency services and passers by who helped, who ensured that the death toll was not much higher. I do not for a moment criticise the formal ceremonies which took place yesterday. But perhaps the most important commemoration of all was that that the tube yesterday morning was as busy as usual.
It is inevitable that people should feed some fear of becoming victims of another such attack. It is right that we should redouble our vigilance and look at how to minimise the risks. I think it was wrong of the government to refuse the calls for a public inquiry into whether anything could have been done better. But it is also important to put the risks of terrorism into their proper context relative to the other risks we face every day. Every time I drive a car on the A595 I am accepting a far higher risk of being killed in a traffic accident than the risk I take when I travel by tube of being blown up by a terrorist.
Terrorism poses threats which we have to deal with. But it is important to strike a balance between the necessary measures to minimise that threat, and those which might themselves imperil the things which make this a country worth defending.
More than two hundred years ago, during another war about freedom, a wise man said that “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” He would have been the first to agree that this includes vigilance against the danger that the very defenders of a free society might themselves imperil it through misplaced zeal. That threat is as real today as the threat from Al-Qaeda.
The people who were murdered a year ago included Christians, Muslims, Jews, and those with no religious faith. The Muslim victims, and everyone else in their communities, were no more and no less the enemies of the sick and deluded men who planned and carried out the bombings as the rest of those affected. But those who worked to save the injured and to keep London going deserve to be remembered long after the bombers are forgotten.