Imagine that a terrorist had shot dead four police officers, in two daylight attacks on the streets of Winchester and Southampton, a few months before the 2012 Olympics. After a few days at large he attacks the playground of a Jewish school in north London, killing a teacher and three children aged three, six and eight (the latter, a girl, is grabbed by the hair before being shot in the head).
A few days before Christmas 2014 vans run over shoppers in Bristol and Liverpool, injuring dozens but miraculously killing no-one. But just three weeks later, masked gunmen attack the London offices of Private Eye, killing a police officer, a receptionist and 11 journalists and cartoonists. In August 2015, a massacre on a Eurostar train speeding through Kent is only narrowly averted when an American tourist wrestles an automatic weapon from a terrorist’s hands. That November, gunmen and suicide bombers attack a music gig at the Brixton Academy and nearby restaurants and bars, killing 130 young Londoners and wounding dozens more.
Worse is to follow in 2016. After a couple of foiled attacks on police stations in Cardiff and Edinburgh in January, in June a police commander and his wife are stabbed to death by a so-called Islamic State terrorist at their home in Essex, in front of their three-year-old son. The following month a terrorist drives a lorry through a crowd of spectators at a midsummer firework display in Torquay, killing 84 and injuring hundreds more. Ten days later, a vicar has his throat cut while celebrating holy communion at a village church in Yorkshire.
I’ve Anglicised the locations but in all other respects this is precisely what France has suffered in the last five years. It’s difficult to overstate the collective trauma, the soul-searching, and the racial tension that such an onslaught has caused. Had Britain faced such a sequence of terrorist attacks, try to imagine the fear, anger and confusion. How would voters react? Would they turn to established political leaders to guide Britain through the turmoil, or look in a new direction? Continue reading