‘Enough is enough’
On the eve of a crucial election, Britain must consider an ‘attitude adjustment’
“Enough is enough,” says Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May. With only hours to go before the British national parliamentary elections on Thursday, and with rescue workers still looking for bodies from the latest terror outrage, Mrs. May has discovered “Islamist extremism.”
Like Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the Democrats in the American campaign last year, she can’t quite call the enemy by its real name, “radical Islamic terrorism.” But she’s getting there, and maybe just in time. Britain elects a new Parliament on Thursday and her once formidable polling lead has shrunk dramatically.
Her Labor Party opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, still seems to think radical Islamic terrorism can be resolved with further expansion of a cozy welfare state and improving the morale of policemen. He has decried cuts in the number of policemen and promises if elected to give them all a raise.
All hands agree that the cops have been heroic in the wake of the London Bridge massacre, following earlier massacres at Westminster and Manchester, and there just aren’t enough of them, but voices are raised at last that enough, indeed, is enough. What Britain needs in addition to more constables is an attitude adjustment.
“Britain is a soft target for terrorism because we Britons are just too nice,” columnist Tim Stanley writes in London’s Daily Telegraph, the bible of the Tory establishment. “This isn’t a criticism: it’s what makes the country such a wonderful place to live. But we are culturally ill-equipped to deal with conspiracies and extremists. The problem is that the only way to beat terrorists is to change our way of life — but that is exactly what the buggers want. So we do as little as possible. And being British, we regard doing as little as possible as a sort of victory.”
Terror by bomb and bullet is not new to the streets of Old Blighty. The kingdom endured and then defeated (for now, anyway) “the Troubles,” as the British call the terrorism of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA. Jeremy Corbyn has had to deal with well-founded suspicions that he had “associations” with the IRA in the past, and he may be within striking distance of winning the parliamentary elections on Thursday (though still trailing by 1, 6 or 9 points, pick your poll).
Britain, like the United States, has a legal system that since the Magna Carta has slowly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, transferred power from the state to the individual person, and this has accorded arriving evildoers a remarkable advantage to do their harm. Due process is unknown in many places, particularly in the Middle East where the imam, however corrupt and primitive, is the law. Immigrants often arrive with poison.
Britain has absorbed so many newcomers from what was once its empire, many of them Muslims, that earlier generations of Britons would hardly recognize it. The British, being the nice and polite folk they are (which is why Donald Trump is an even greater puzzle in Britain than he is at home), would not dream of telling these newcomers to “be British,” or even how to do it.
“The Troubles,” writes Tim Stanley, “ended not because, as Jeremy Corbyn suggests, we sat down to the tea with the IRA but because the British state suppressed it — and with methods that defy our cozy assumption that Britishness is ultimately about leaving others be. No one wants to go through that again. But you don’t fight a war without the expectation that your way of life will change. If we want to win, it must.”