Since Thursday’s bombings, Ken Livingstone’s been telling a story about London as open, tolerant and free – the opposite of the miserable theocratic monocultures advanced by the miserable bombers and their miserable egomaniac bosses. Of course, I like this story. It’s what I (and millions of incomers before me) love about London. It’s resilient, accepting, adaptable. A contemporary city rooted in a couple of millennia of immigration and assimilation.
Of course I couldn’t help being a bit suspicious of Ken’s motives – he’s a politician to the bone and his story sounded, well, a bit too political for a moment like this. But then Juliet read me the names of the twelve people still missing – Laura Webb, Monika Suchocka, Shahera Akther Islam, Michelle Outto, Jamie Gordon, Neetu Jain, Rachelle Yuen, Philip Russell, Anthony Fataji Williams, Slimane Ihab, Philip Beer, Richard Ellery – and I suppose that was enough. The Mayor’s right. Those names say it all. London is a city defined by its readiness to accommodate newcomers and its principal weapon against the nihilists is its openness.
Incidentally, Frank Gardner, the BBC’s Security Correspondent, was on Start The Week this morning. He’s an Arabic-speaker and an all-round Middle East expert (and he was paralysed by an Al-Qaeda gunman a year ago). He reckons the Arab press is full of rather surprised editorial about just how heterogeneous the population of London is.