Yesterday, emerging from a cinema, I checked my phone for messages and news. A statement from Sadiq Khan referred to an incident in Exhibition Road, involving a car. Eleven people had been injured. First thought? Oh no, not again. But wait. “Police have now confirmed that this incident is not terror-related,” the statement said. Imagine the disappointment felt by London haters everywhere.
That is not hard to do, because a couple of the more prominent examples had already grabbed the chance the Exhibition Road collision offered to make unpleasant spectacles of themselves.
They were the usual loudmouths. Human foghorn and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, summoned from across the pond by the slavering hysterics of Fox News, announced to a watching world that the Met was “clearly” treating what happened as a terrorist incident .
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Bridgewater’s own Katie Hopkins, whose ego and ignorance pursue each other in endless upward spirals of self-serving stupidity, advised tourists to “stay at home”, declared that the Mayor has “let us all down” and opined that “state propaganda does not get more blatant” in response to coverage by the BBC.
Both Farage and Hopkins are, of course, feted and kept well fed by a range of media outlets, perhaps giving some people the mistaken impression that they establish and weigh facts before broadcasting their opinions. As it became clear that the Gomez and Morticia Addams of gobshite opportunism had got it completely wrong, both beat ungainly retreats.
Too late. They had already re-confirmed what we already knew: that they are not only a pair of complete charlatans, but that they hate everything Londoners love about the capital and that the capital does for the UK. Cosmopolitan cites are valued for that quality by people who live in them, and London is no exception. London is far from perfect, but its capacity for accommodating an array of humankind from all over the world, thriving on it and subsidising the rest of the UK from the proceeds is both extraordinary and vital to the nation’s future.
For such as Farage and Hopkins, though, these things are to be denied or despised. Their brand of supposed patriotism fears and loathes all that is and always has been integral to their own capital city: its internationalism, its openness, its liberality, its own special kinds of pleasure, opportunity and solidarity. They aren’t the only fundamentalists to feel that way.
It is fitting, in a way, that the incident took place outside the Natural History Museum. That institution is famous for its exhibits of dinosaur remains. Farage and Hopkins fit that description, though neither will ever enhance human wisdom in any temple of knowledge, whether in London or anywhere else.
I’d like to join the Mayor in wishing a speedy recovery those injured yesterday.
Photograph by Max Curwen-Bingley.