We don’t yet know much about who was responsible for the so-called “bucket bomb” that went off in a District Line carriage at Parsons Green station on Friday. Two people have been arrested in connection with it, the first in Dover, the second in Sunbury-on-Thames. It is the fourth terror attack on London this year, following Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Finsbury Park. It appears that the Parsons Green bomb failed to detonate fully. Of the 30 people injured, just one is still in hospital. The signs are that the incident could have been much worse.
Just the same, there is increasing talk of terror attacks becoming seen as the “new normal” and what that might signify. For some, any such attitude is to be decried as a form of denial that London and the country is, as they see it, effectively at war. For others, the latest attack adds weight to Sadiq Khan’s vow that Londoners will not be intimidated and London never defeated by such assaults. From this point of view, carrying on as usual shows a watchful fortitude, not indifference or complacency.
The latter stance is the better one, not least for demonstrating that the prime purpose of terror – to demoralise and destabilise the target society as widely and deeply as possible – stands next to no chance of being achieved in the vast and famously resilient capital. But, of course, the certain knowledge that, scattered around the city and elsewhere, very dangerous people are fantasising about, furtively planning and clearly capable of doing staggeringly savage things to fellow human beings can be unnerving. Perspective can easily be lost. Fear can seep into even level heads.
When that happens it can be soothing to consider some statistics. The four terror attacks in London during this year have left 13 people dead and nearly 140 injured. That is monstrous and terrible. But compare those cold statistics with Transport for London’s most recent annual figures for casualties of road traffic collisions. During 2015 across Greater London, 136 people were fatally injured in such incidents. A further 1,956 were recorded as seriously injured and 28,090 as slightly injured.
Those numbers – which contain the smallest total for people killed or seriously injured since records began, by the way – are for a full year rather than eight-and-a-half-months of one, which is how far we are through 2017. But they plainly indicate that terror attacks are far from being the biggest danger to life and limb in London.
Of course, there’s something distinctively chilling about the thought of people deliberately setting out to kill and maim as many of us they can. There are plenty of them about. Last month, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said that terror threats are now posed by a widening range of people and a former head of MI5 said he expected specifically Islamist terror to menace the UK for another 20 to 30 years. There is real cause for concern and that seems set to remain the case for quite some time.
But the more they scare us, the more ground they gain and the more they fool themselves that they can win. The Mayor’s message is the right one.
Photograph shows a message from staff at Manor House Underground station on Saturday morning.