Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Friday, July 07, 2006


A swirl of thoughts on, for and about today, generally prompted by the repeat of the excellent BBC documentary, 'Nine Days That Shook London'.

1. London effectively has a new brand essence: "The product of London is multiculturalism and youth". That's pretty good; and inspiring.

2. Despite appearances to the contrary, the New Labour administration hasn't quite lost all its fabled facility for spin and media management. The absorption of Bob Geldof into the G8 fold, the portrayal of achieving more limited goals than the World Development Movement/majority of the Make Poverty History coalition were asking for as a success, and the use of Live 8 as a tool to help in the London 2012 bid, point to a sophisticated, multi-channel strategy which covered a variety of audiences and messages. Alas, how far away it all seems.

3. My one abiding memory of last year was of sitting in The Hope on Wandsworth Common, as the rain slated down, watching the small TV high in the corner as ITN News gradually forwent calm facts for mounting hysteria. It should be taken as a good sign that, through the silvery cloud and threatened thunder, sunlight is glinting today.

4. There are two emergent themes rising from the discourse of remembrance over the last few days. One is indicated through the use of words like 'devastated', 'never the same again' - and yet, in the very same breath there has to be an acknowledgement of the resilience and the fact that, actually, little has changed. One can sense a media class frustrated that, by and large, Londoners have not gone back to Diana-style street emoting, and instead are following the dictum: Keep calm; carry on.

The other is that, despite today, 7/7 has become a 'shadow' event, one that has not gripped the wider imagination as much as other comparable events of terror or violence in London's past. Catherine Bennett remarked yesterday about the lack of a celebrity glare on fundraising for victims and survivors; there is a gnawing sense that people who were involved but not injured killed (the 'mass forgotten') have been given a raw deal in terms of compensation, or more importantly the public discourse of attention and healing; and Joe Kerr's harsh words that not a single member of the Westminster tribe came to visit his wife while she was in St Thomas' Hospital damn a political class that don't even want to contemplate the idea that they might have even the smallest speck of blood on their hands. The Economist this morning suggests that is in part the reason as to why there has not been a full public inquiry, which has of course, contributed to this 'shadow' status.

5. Apt sounds: as the memorial garden at King's Cross was opened just now, sirens blared in the middle distance. We continue, the city continues.

6. Ken Livingstone's words in Singapore last year become ever more important, both as part of a/my personal narrative, as to why I/we are Londoners and proud to be so; but also as a distillation of what the city is:

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee that the city of London is the greatest in the world because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by the cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the Mayor of that city.

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.


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