It would be so easy to write this column about the atrocity committed in London a few days ago and focus on the hatred that fuelled it.
It is so difficult not to scream for a throw away the key policy for all those who continue to threaten our way of life by their evil intent. To ask how on earth a convicted terrorist could persuade his probation officer and the police to lift a ban on travel to the capital and then walk in, presumably without being searched, to a seminar about the rehabilitation of offenders while hiding a mock suicide vest and carrying two knives to harm those who sought only to help him.
And the hideous irony that this this vicious evil killer, should reap such havoc only four weeks after the security threat to this country was downgraded. The threat is real. The threat has not gone away.
But I won’t go on. There is a time and a place for public recriminations. And the time is not now out of respect for the two bright young campaigners who believed in the inherent goodness of people and whose lives were snuffed out by a man who was so obviously sneering at all their commendable intentions. Now is the time for grief and support.
In case you think I have gone soft in the head I haven’t. As regular readers will know it is not in my nature to hold back. But the family of 25 year old Jack Merritt who died at the hands of a man he wrongly believed was a reformed terrorist have asked us to stop. And for now we must respect their wishes and let the security services carry out their review away from the political arena. Our fear is understandable, but their grief, is too raw to add to it by making his death and the death of his colleague Saskia Jones a political football.
It is entirely the fault of our politicians as they vie for our vote that Jack’s family has come out with such condemnation. And that is politicians on both sides of the debate. Now is not the time for cheap point scoring, though as a nation we have a right to know how they plan to fight the ever present threat of terrorism and that includes funding that fight. But even politicians should know there is a time and a place for such rhetoric, the same kind of rhetoric which threatened to turn the murder of one of our own MPs, Jo Cox, into an opportunity for political point scoring. Will they never learn ?
On Monday Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson stood side by side at one of two vigils to Jack and Saskia, another fellow Cambridge University student who had planned to dedicate her life to helping the victims of crime. They should have stood side by side from the moment the horrific events at the Fishmonger’s Hall, unfolded. There is an urgent review on security being undertaken behind closed doors. It will presumably also reassess the security risk of the 70 plus other freed terrorists who have also been released back into our communities. Who is overseeing them and how can we be sure the experts have got it right when they got it so wrong this time ? I do not believe we can ever be sure and so the risk of release is too great.
But for now let us do what Jack’s family has asked us to do and that is to focus on his belief in the “inherent goodness of humanity.” We can do that by reminding ourselves of the extraordinary heroism of those who brought the attack to an end.
A Polish kitchen worker who was slashed as he fought the evil that confronted him. Those on London Bridge who wrestled the attacker to the ground, some of them convicted criminals attending that very conference, proof that rehabilitation can produce good citizens, exactly as Jack and Saskia sought to prove. I too believe there is no merit in a prison system that does not at least try to reform those within. Only it must be certain it has done so before they are released.
Jack Merritt’s father says he can envision his son ticking the events of last week over in his mind before a word is uttered. The politicians should have done just that and stood together on the hatred that threatens us all before opening their mouths.
Now Jack’s father has quietly and movingly taken some of the heat out of the debate, a debate which is necessary but should not overshadow all these young people were trying to do. This man, amid all his grief, has begged us all extinguish hatred with kindness, to share his son’s drive and feel his passion. If a father can ask that for his son, a son who has been murdered because he wanted to change all our lives for the better, who are we not to pause and do the same.