Keep on keeping on

The talk of the Blitz spirit in London can become a bit mawkish at a time like this. A family member of mine went through the real Blitz in 1940 and 1941 and she told me that all was far from the myth. Class still pervaded all – for example, many looked down on those without a shelter who hid from bombs in the tube. Not everyone sang “Roll out the barrel”; not everyone cooed with gratitude as Queen Elizabeth wafted by in chiffon. Looting was a common occurrence. Horrible things were covered up by the authorities.

And yet it was also a time of extraordinary solidarity. The resilience of the East Londoner was not made up. Grandma talked matter-of-factly about being bombed out, of losing home and possessions – not once but twice, as if it were a minor inconvenience.

When I was a child in the seventies I was taken to see the Christmas windows at Selfridges. Not far from where my Grandma worked throughout the Blitz. Selfridges was bombed later that day (the IRA gave a warning and there was enormous damage but no loss of life). Twenty five years later the office where I worked received damage when a nail bomb was left in Brixton market. My colleagues and I were lucky. It was a weekend and none of us were in the building but many Saturday shoppers suffered horrible injuries.

London is a magnet for the brightest and the best but also for the very worst. There will always be those who want to erase their own futility by making a depraved little mark in one of the greatest of capitals.

Many Londoners, commuters and visitors will have a “near miss” or a “what if” in their minds today but perhaps a tiny crumb of comfort can be drawn from the history and the very fabric of London itself. A city that has seen it all.

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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15 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 25th Mar '17 - 9:48pm

    One deranged idiot armed with a car and a knife…tragic for the dead and injured but hardly a cause to appeal to the “blitz spirit”. We do no-one any favours (other than ISIS and their like) by over-reacting. 130 civilians killed yesterday in American air-raids on Mosul.

  • Tony I don’t think you actually read the post – it was about keeping going and that London has seen it all and so much worse.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Mar '17 - 10:49pm

    I understand what Ruth means even if some don’t !

    I think sometimes it is an age thing. Those of the Tim, Ruth, my own generation and younger ,those of us born in the latter sixties or early seventies, seem to be able to relate to or pay homage to the patriotism and other aspects of the generation who were adults in the war.

    Some Liberals who were born during the war or just after it seem to not relate to it.

    It is interesting that when I express Liberal patriotism on here, it is a few left leaning men of that era mock or criticise it.

  • There was no ‘Queen Elizabeth’ during the blitz.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Mar '17 - 7:46am

    Voyager, There was a Queen Elizabeth during the blitz – Queen Elizabeth the wife of King George the Sixth, the mother of the present queen.

  • Ruth Bright 26th Mar '17 - 7:56am

    Thanks Catherine!

    Re earlier comments. Worry not good Lorenzo. Always wary of community politicians who have donned the ermine!

  • I take Tony’s point, in that the final death toll isn’t that high when compared with other terror attacks, or even a nasty car accident. Nevertheless, the intention is relevant, there are many more horribly injured, and it would be wrong to dismiss the very real grief by dismissing this event as a minor event, or even a failed attack.

    I suppose the point is that if we make a big show of solidarity, and praising the police and praising the politician who leapt into action, and praising the members of the public who helped strangers, then it does deflate the morale of some potential copycats. On the other hand, the attention might encourage others to hope that they too can get in the news. In that respect, I’m relieved that much more attention has gone to the murdered police man than to the man who murdered him.

  • https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/25/westminster-attack-khalid-masoon-acted-alone

    “They are still trying to establish whether he had been “inspired by terrorist propaganda or if others have encouraged, supported or directed him. If the latter proves to be the case, they will face justice.”

    “After four days of intensive inquiries across England and Wales, involving hundreds of officers, the Metropolitan police said they had so far failed to establish the reason for the attack. It is continuing to look at whether Masood was prompted by online propaganda by Islamic State, which has claimed he was a “soldier”, or whether he had some other sense of grievance.”

    So the latest information is that we don’t know yet whether he was inspired by a terrorist group, we don’t fully know his motivation at all and there is no current sign that he was helped by outside parties. So if I, as a white person, drove a car into people and then stabbed a policeman would I be called a terrorist? Would politicians and media types alike stand and say “terrorism will never win”? I don’t believe they would. Perhaps the answer is racism or location of attack or perhaps because IS claimed him as a soldier – I could claim him as an angry Millwall fan – but perhaps there is something else going on.

  • grahame lamb 26th Mar '17 - 11:25am

    If Ruth in her article is saying that the undaunted spirit should be “business as usual” then I agree.

  • Paul Murray 26th Mar '17 - 2:13pm

    I liked the comment retweeted by Richard Osman in the aftermath of his “World Cup of Biscuits” for Red Nose Day:

    (Somewhere in an ISIS camp) ‘Did it work? Are they living in fear??’ ‘No sir, they are arguing about biscuits’

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Mar '17 - 2:24pm

    Ruth ,speaks the truth,
    Bright , too right !

  • David Evans 26th Mar '17 - 6:05pm

    I’m curious as to why Ruth and Lorenzo think Tony was disagreeing with her. Ruth says talk of a “Blitz spirit” can become a bit mawkish nowadays – mawkish meaning exaggeratedly sentimental. Tony says the current situation is hardly a cause to appeal to the “blitz spirit.”

    To me they are saying broadly the same thing, possibly looking at it from a different angle, but largely making the same point none the less. London and more importantly Londoners will go on; what went on in the Blitz was much worse. So was what is going on in Mosul. But for those people directly affected it was a tragedy. As liberals we all know that.

    We need to be careful we don’t jump to conclusions about disagreement without seeking confirmation.

  • David Allen 26th Mar '17 - 8:16pm

    I’m curious as to why Tony felt the need to describe Ruth’s article as “over-reacting”, when the article can broadly be described as a plea not to over-react!

  • Simon Banks 31st Mar '17 - 9:40am

    Queen Mary, not Elizabeth. If we remember the Blitz spirit, let’s remember the many French, Poles, Czechs, German Jews who stood with us, remember the Irish, Caribbean and African volunteers, remember 303 Squadron RAF.

  • David Evans 31st Mar '17 - 1:29pm

    David, As I said in my earlier post, I don’t think Tony was disagreeing with Ruth, but actually supporting her. By saying “We do no-one any favours (other than ISIS and their like) by over-reacting,” he was referring to the over-reacting in the press; not as you (and others including Ruth) seem to have interpreted it as implying that it was Ruth who was over-reacting.

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