Magazine article The Spectator

Gordon Brown Has a New Plan to Beat Terror. This Is What He Should Do

Magazine article The Spectator

Gordon Brown Has a New Plan to Beat Terror. This Is What He Should Do

Article excerpt

Do you feel safe? Every time you go to the airport do you worry that you might be blown up by Islamist militants? Do you avoid using public transport, or frequenting louche nightclubs, for fear of being targeted by fanatical suicide bombers?

While the 7 July bomb attacks against London's transportation system in 2005 have rightly dominated the public's consciousness in terms of the tangible threat posed by Muslim terror groups, there have been many more foiled attacks that would have created far more carnage had they succeeded with their deadly designs.

Just imagine the appalling loss of life that would have occurred if the plot to blow up a number of transatlantic flights departing from Heathrow in the summer of 2006 had not been foiled. The destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 killed a total of 270 people in the air and on the ground; the planned terrorist attack on Heathrow would have killed many more people. As recently as last summer hundreds of London partygoers had a lucky escape when a series of car bombs that were set to explode outside some of the capital's more high-profile nightclubs failed to detonate.

This last attack, of course, occurred shortly after Gordon Brown had taken up residence in 10 Downing Street, and the calm and professional manner with which he and Jacqui Smith, his newly appointed Home Secretary, handled the aftermath contributed to the development of the initial feelgood factor (remember that? ) which attended the Brown government's first months in office.

After ten years of the opportunistic photo ops and glib soundbites that so often characterised Tony Blair's contribution to the war on terror, the public appeared to welcome Mr Brown's more measured, and far less hysterical, approach to these challenges to national security, a fact that Mr Brown himself appeared to grasp when he committed himself to setting up a review of Britain's national security strategy, which is shortly to publish its recommendations.

There's nothing this Prime Minister likes more than setting up reviews to examine the great issues of the day, whether it is examining the suitability of the British economy for entry to the euro-zone or tackling the gravest threat to national security Britain has faced since the end of the Cold War.

Unlike Tony Blair, whose premiership was defined by his unequivocal response to the September 11 attacks and who relished taking centre stage in the global campaign against Islamic extremism, Gordon Brown is not a man who fits easily or naturally into the role of a wartime leader. That was evident when he had his only, awkward encounter with President George W.

Bush at Camp David last summer.

You only have to look at the way Mr Brown has conducted himself during his tour of China and India over the past week to see that he is capable of summoning statesmanlike composure when he needs to. But then this trip was all about macro-economics and forging new business partnerships -- the former Chancellor's political comfort zone -- rather than the altogether more challenging business of defeating a determined and highly dangerous enemy.

Perhaps Mr Brown believes that if he distances himself from the war junkies whom he and his followers believe have seized control of the White House, then Britain will be less at risk of attack from Islamist terror cells. This would also explain the government's strange obsession with refusing to use the term 'war on terror' to describe the military conflict currently being waged by the British army and the combined resources of the nation's intelligence and security establishment against the modern menace of global terrorism.

Ms Smith, who reassuringly admitted that she is frightened of the violence on the streets of Peckham, let alone the diabolical schemes of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda organisation, nevertheless still believes that the old Blairite language glorifies the terrorists, and that referring to jihadis as mere 'criminals' is the best way to put them in their place. …

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