THE terrorist attack on a train at Parsons Green in London was the latest in a series of sickening attempts to take the lives of innocent people going about their business — an attempt that fortunately failed, though many will bear its scars for the rest of their lives.
As the Morning Star goes to press, it is not clear who was behind the attack. The police who rebuked US President Donald Trump for speculating about it were right: ill-informed guessing games do not keep anyone safe and can easily lead to further harm.
The stories of panic, of people being injured in the crush to escape, can tell us something, however.
Passenger Luke O’Connor praises the “superb” work of Tube staff in getting people out of the station safely: the TSSA’s Manuel Cortes is right to salute the “courage and dedication to safety” of London Underground workers. But we also have accounts saying that initially no staff were to be seen: passengers talk of it taking “several minutes” before there was an uncontrolled freefor-all in which people were being trampled as they tried to get out.
Drawing any link between this and the hundreds of job losses on the Underground that transport unions have campaigned against for years — RMT pointed out in January that axing workers risked turning the Tube into an “understaffed death trap at a time of heightened security alert” — will attract allegations of “politicising” a tragedy.
Labour was accused of doing just that when it pointed to the Tory police cuts after the terrorist attack in Manchester in May, and again in June for highlighting decades of penny-pinching and ill-treatment of council tenants, an aggressive campaign against “health and safety” and a repeated failure to implement safety recommendations after previous fires as contributing factors to the corporate manslaughter at Grenfell Tower.
The right-wing cry that raising these issues is somehow disrespectful to the victims of these incidents is simply an attempt to direct attention away from preventive measures which go against their ideological prejudices — or, worse, cost money.
It is no coincidence that Transport for London and Arriva Trains London cancelled the planned announcement of a London Overground staffing review that was due yesterday — when the proposed changes threatened ticket office closures and have “a striking similarity to the Fit for the Future model rolled out on London Underground stations” which resulted in a “net loss of safety-critical jobs,” in the words of RMT general secretary Mick Cash.
Since the plans are a response to budget cuts imposed by central government, assurances that they are solely a bid to improve services ring hollow.
At the very least, bosses must start to listen to the concerns that unions have been raising over the consequences of cuts and stop pretending their decisions do not have real-world consequences.
The Tories always seek to have it both ways: public-sector workers — like the firefighters who again proved their heroism after yesterday’s incident — are heroes when emergency strikes, but they don’t deserve a pay rise.
And the world is becoming a more dangerous place because of the threat of terrorism, but we must neither ask what the root causes of an increase in terror attacks might be nor countenance spending money on extra resources for our public services to deal with the growing menace.
It’s quite simple: cuts to essential services — and this includes the staffing of our public transport systems — render us all less safe. They must be reversed.
If they are not, it is because, whatever Theresa May and her cronies might say on a day like yesterday, they do not really care about the risk to the public at all.