Will They Be Fiddling While Britain Burns?

The events in Paris ought to have been a wake-up call for Britain, but instead all we get is the usual waffle and rhetoric and Cameron’s desire to be Blair and bomb Syria. The fundamental issues remain unaddressed.

The first issue is the lack of armed police in Britain. Now, I’ve always been against the routine arming of the police, but what we do need is a strong response force capable of dealing with such an attack. Yet, at present, we have only a small number of armed police whose arms and armour are not up to the task of combating a terrorist attack of the type we saw in Paris, meaning that not only are terrorists to be given plenty of time to carry out an attack, but when the armed police do arrive, they’re going to struggle to bring the situation to an end. I don’t believe the answer is to arm the police for routine patrols – Britain is too far along the road to becoming a police state as it is – but to ensure that, firstly, more and better-equipped armed response units are available, and, secondly, to ensure that many more police are trained and that firearms are available to arm them at short notice, whether in light of a security alert or in response to an attack.

The second issue is the lack of control over Britain’s borders. Cameron might waffle about strengthening border checks, but the system is a mess, understaffed and underfunded, and undermined by membership of the EU and the pan-European obsessions of civil servants. Yet, we need to ensure Britain’s borders aren’t porous, if we wish to ensure terrorists and the weapons they would wield cannot enter the country. No system is perfect and, no matter how strong Britain’s borders, we cannot guarantee no weapons or terrorists will get through, just as strong borders will not prevent home-grown terrorists, but the harder it is for them to enter the country, the safer we will be and the less stretched the security services will be.

The third issue is that of the Syrian refugees, an issue that is, unfortunately, the political football of extremists on both sides of the political spectrum, who are using the issue for their own ends without a thought for the refugees or the people of Britain. Unfortunately, just as they have been used as a cover by economic migrants, the refugees are the perfect cover for jihadists to enter Europe, and, despite talk of concentrating on refugees still in the camps in Syria, who can be better vetted, the government has done nothing to take control of the situation, partly due to a fear of being labelled racist, but mostly due to the scale and cost of such a project. But, their inaction only increases the threat, which plays into the hands of those who would see no refugees helped. Naturally, it is easier to ask for more surveillance powers or to discuss banning the veil (especially if it remains just talk, rather than requiring action) than it is to tackle the real and immediate issue of ensuring only genuine refugees enter Britain. Indeed, their inaction means that mistrust grows and people more and more begin to conflate ‘refugee’ with ‘migrant’ and ‘terrorist’, increasing not only the numbers opposed to taking any, but also the risk of a backlash, which is exactly what the terrorists want – they don’t need to flood Europe with fighters if they can set Europeans and Muslims at one another’s throats and inspire more hatred.

The fourth issue is that of the treatment of Muslims in the UK. Now, Britain is nowhere near as bad as France or Belgium, but it is far from a good host. We hear a lot of waffle about multiculturalism and acceptance, but there is precious little respect for or trust of Muslims. Too many Muslims are left without a decent education or access to jobs, pawns in political gerrymandering, and are frequently denigrated and abused. It should come as no surprise that the Jihadist ideology appeals to so many young Muslims. And, as more of them turn to it, so the mistrust and hatred will grow, resulting in a self-reinforcing cycle of hatred leading to exactly the outcome the Jihadists desire.

I would love to believe that commonsense and decency will prevail and that these issues will be addressed, but I fear things will only grow worse until disaster forces a change – and the outcome could be even worse a disaster. We need strong and decisive leadership, but not born of fear and prejudice, but of compassion and a genuine understanding of the threats facing us.

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