THE people of Manchester’s response to Monday night’s terrorist atrocity continues to show solidarity, courage and community spirit that acts as an example to us all.
The thousands raised for homeless Stephen Jones, who raced to the scene to pull nails from the faces of the victims and the hundreds of thousands pouring into the Manchester Emergency JustGiving fund display the same generosity we saw so much evidence of from local people on the night of the attack.
Suspending general election campaigning in the aftermath of the tragedy was the right response, a mark of respect for the innocent victims of terrorism and their families.
But extending that suspension indefinitely is the wrong response. It gives the perpetrators of such disgusting attacks a kind of victory.
We know that the self-styled Islamic State (Isis) group, still waging its genocidal war on the peoples of Iraq and Syria, is claiming responsibility for the murders in Manchester.
Isis despises democracy, and for our democratic system to function as normal in the face of its attacks indicates its failure to intimidate us and the rejection by people of all colours and creeds of its vile ideology.
On an even more basic level, the purpose of its attacks is to cause chaos, fear and disruption, and to promote the “clash of civilisations” it and its spitting-image counterparts in fascist and white supremacist organisations yearn for.
Clearly no society can simply carry on as normal in the face of a mortal threat to the lives of its people. Attacks must be investigated and measures taken to prevent them happening again. But this is very different from suspending our critical judgement of the response of the authorities.
“Something must be done” is not a policy and our recent history is littered with examples of responses which have caused enormous harm — and left us far less safe than before.
The elephant in the room is of course the “war on terror,” launched by George W Bush and Tony Blair in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.
This open-ended conflict has proved more counterproductive even than the much-ridiculed “war on drugs,” which has so dismally failed to reduce the illegal smuggling of narcotics or the lethal violence that awful trade inflicts on civilians in producer countries.
No serious analyst of the wars launched in the name of the “war on terror,” from Afghanistan and Iraq in the Blair era to Libya and Syria under David Cameron and Theresa May, argues that they reduced the terrorist threat.
The destruction of stable governments and the descent of whole nations into bloody chaos created Isis and proved a gift to its precursor and now rival al-Qaida.
Studies by the Open Society Justice Initiative and Rights Watch UK have also slammed the British government’s Prevent programme as counterproductive — allowing widespread discrimination and abuse which can alienate entire communities.
And all such projects to counter “radical Islam” ring hollow when Britain maintains its sycophantic alliance with the Wahhabi regime in Saudi Arabia, where death is the penalty for atheism and where the government sponsors and promotes murderous, intolerant fanaticism on a global scale.
Suspending campaigning is an inadequate answer to Monday’s terrible events because we do have a choice on June 8 that could make a difference.
Theresa May stands for all the failed policies that have brought us to this pass. The government’s response, to ramp up Prevent and flood the streets with soldiers, is more of the same.
Labour offers a different vision, one where our security is boosted by a peaceful foreign policy and military assistance to jihadist groups in the Middle East is ended.