The London bombings

John Reid (new Home Secretary) makes statement on the reports that have come out on the chronology and the intelligence about the July London bombings last year. The thrust is to tell the tale of what happened when and to present the findings of the Security Committee – which focused on intelligence and resources.

As the story unfolded it became clear that two of the bombers were known but not followed up on. So there was an opportunity to have stopped the bombings. I don’t know that you will ever be able to stop everything happening. According to Reid three further attacks on London have been stopped since last year. However, the lack of resources to put possible suspects etc under surveillance is not acceptable.

We are pushing for a public enquiry. Reid refuses to authorise one. The remit of the committees who reported today is very narrowly focused – and doesn’t touch on prevention. What a wider remit could examine is why British boys were able to be radicalised, turning on their fellow citizens and murdering them. What is going on? That is what we need to understand – and address. It is quite clear that these were not boys from some dreadfully deprived or socially excluded background. They were from decent families and as far as I can tell, actually active participating members of society in terms of helping youngsters in the area, being a classroom assistant and so on.

So yes – we need to work with communities where deprivation and lack of employment and housing problems afflict large swathes of the community – but we are fooling ourselves if we think that will address the fundamental causes of radicalisation. That is a whole other ball game. And we cannot really begin to tackle it unless we know the why – which is why a public inquiry is the best way forward. Even the USA has appropriate investigations post 9/11.

In the evening I am addressing Year 11 and their parents at the Fortismere “Record of Achievement Night”. It’s held in the Panorama Room at Ally Pally. There are nine forms at this age – so we are talking around 200+ pupils and a couple of parents each. So the hall is thronging! We start with fantastic music. Two of the solo female vocalists had voices so wonderful that you get a lump in your throat.

The National Record of Achievement – which was presented to each student individually when they came up – is a record not only of their learning but also their extracurricular activities. I am a great fan of extra-curricular activity. And as an employer – I am looking in terms of formal qualifications, but beyond that I am looking for character, and determination and the person beyond the qualifications.

It was a very heart-warming evening. Contrast that against the day before when Labour (Government and Council) refused to review the funding allocation to Fortismere to rebuild (or even make usable) the 6th form block. Fortismere is the sort of school the Government says it wants to expand. It is a good school and its buildings need work. But when the council allocated the money for buildings – Fortismere got the least in the whole borough.