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Reading the runes of the bombs’ aftermath

Five days on from the bombings and what today’s Londoners assume to be the spirit of the Blitz remains strong.

Hence, the criticism of the Conservatives for their mistimed call for an inquiry.

The call was predictable as unfortunately are a plethora of developments in the weeks ahead as the media and Westminster revert to type. How long till wewe see the first “bungling cops” stories? These will retail how police “were warned” that this was coming but took their eyes off the ball. They will be backed up by leaked documents which that show that intelligence services knew of a threat to bomb the Tube, as if this is somehow a revelation. Demands for an inquiry grow.

Then will come stories of back covering. A Sunday paper will reveal that MI5 had warned ministers that a new attack was imminent.

Meanwhile, in the News of the World, Lord Stevens, former Metropolitan police commissioner, will tell of 4,000 home grown terrorists stalking our streets.

In the City retail companies will cite the bombings as the reason for disappointing quarterly figures. Newspapers will report that the government is considering “state-of-the-art scanning devices” at every Tube station. The only people quoted will be manufacturers of state-of-the-art scanning devices.

The police arrest a number of people in raids across Britain. Tabloids claim a plot to bomb Heathrow has been foiled. All are subsequently and quietly released. As the days pass without an arrest questions will be asked about the effectiveness of the investigation. Demands for an inquiry grow.

Unnamed intelligence sources will be quoted as believing the terrorists trained in Iraq. Robin Cook and Clare Short pen articles pointing out that Mr Blair was warned that invading Iraq would place Britain more at risk.

Right-wingers will argue that the nature of the attacks prove the war on terror is being won, while the Power of Nightmares crowd will say it proves the real al-Qaeda threat has been overstated. In the News of the World, Lord Stevens will warn of 5,000 home grown terrorists on our streets. Mr Blair says the terrorists will not be allowed to disrupt our way of life. Two months later Charles Clarke curtails five fundamental rights as he announces what he hails as “the toughest and most comprehensive package of anti-terror measures ever”.

Lord Stevens says there are 10,000 home grown terrorists stalking the streets. A Daily Mail inquiry finds the gaps in our immigration system that which leave Britain open to terror. Demands for an inquiry grow.

The police make their first arrests. Papers rave about the meticulous and patient operation that which cracked the case.

Beyond one’s Ken

The transformation is now complete. Ken Livingstone is officially Britain’s Giuliani, the man whose reaction to the bombings and rhetoric got it just right. Likewise commentators declared that Mr Blair hit “exactly the right tone”. This is obviously a great relief. In the hours after the bombings many were particularly worried that Mr Blair would hit the wrong tone or maybe crack a joke.

The praise commentwas theunanimous. This was all awful of course, but Tony Blair handled it superbly. And Ken; well a revelation. A star is born.

Mr Blair did what was required as one would expect. Mr Livingstone is no slouch but we are unused to him in this situation, so his response angerwas less expected.

The mayor has also in the past shared platforms with apologists for terror. Perhaps because of that the Mayor of London was won quite astonishing plaudits for this late-blossoming act of political maturity. Yes, he was impressive but what exactly did people expect the mayor to do? Get up on his desk and sing “the sun has got its hat on”? Mr Livingstone knew what was needed. There is every reason to believe he meant everything he said. But it hardly speaks well of “Britain’s Giuliani” that so many are impressed he did it without messing it up.

Picture this

One curious feature has been the large number of pictures taken with mobile phones. Particularly striking were all those images from inside the Tube trains or tunnels when one imagines people had other things on their mind than “getting one for the album”. What impels people to do this when surely their only thought would be about getting out? Is it a desire to prove they were there?

Even more puzzling are those pictures of the bus blast, seemingly taken within seconds of the explosion. Apparently, somewhere between the compulsion to go and help and the less noble but equally understandable compulsion to flee is the compulsion to stop and take photos.

robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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