But I just read that David Cameron has ordered a 1 minute silence to be held on 3rd July, and I have to ask why. Observing a period of silence is a perfectly good thing to do; I have no objection to it. It’s Cameron’s motive I feel suspicious about.
All premature death is deeply upsetting for the families and loved ones of the deceased, be it through murder, suicide, accident or illness. So do we observe a government sponsored period of silence for all murder victims, or the hundreds who are killed every year in air and road crashes, or the countless victims of antibiotic-resistant superbugs who die as a result of going into hospital, or the many people who died as a result of malpractice at Stafford Hospital a few years ago, or those who wind up dead through people-trafficking activities? Generally, we don’t. So what makes this situation different and worthy of Mr Cameron’s personal intervention? Well, two things:
1. It was an act of terrorism.
2. It captured the public’s imagination far more than most news items are capable of doing.
So maybe we should bear in mind that:
1. Counter-terrorism is the big bargaining factor when the Establishment wants to extend public surveillance, and we should all be aware by now that the Establishment wants to know as much about us as it can get away with, for all sorts of reasons. Ergo, playing a terrorist incident to the hilt is useful.
2. Politicians with flagging popularity ratings are rarely averse to using highly emotive national issues to boost their scores by being seen to be at one with the people. Mrs Thatcher was famously saved by the ‘Falklands Factor,’ and they do the same thing with sporting successes. One of Cameron’s early and much-lampooned statements was ‘we’re all in this together,’ and it’s always been a theme of his personal PR to try to be seen as ‘one of us’ despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Of course, I can’t claim to know that either of these is what’s motivating Cameron since I don’t have access to his mind, but I do think the possibility is self-evident. And if that were the case, it would be more than a little questionnable. But I'm only guessing...