Such is the hair-trigger nature of the Westminster bubble after last month’s attack on the capital’s people and Parliament that all it took was a routine Police operation - concluded peacefully and without anyone suffering injury - to set the press off in an orgy of headless chicken impersonations. A man with a knife! No, more than one knife! A man with a beard who might be a Scary Muslim (tm)! Jihadis! Terror! AAAAARRGHHH!!!
So what actually happened? The Police had been monitoring the movements of a man in his late 20s, and had followed him onto an Underground train travelling along the District and Circle Lines. He left the train at St James’s Park station and walked back towards Westminster, where the order went out to stop him. He was detained near the north-west corner of Parliament Square, at the south end of Parliament Street.
No-one else was involved. No-one was attacked, and so no-one was injured. Had the stop been effected in, say, central Manchester or Leeds, there would have been very little said about it, although those out on the far right would have expended plenty of heat, but generated very little light, in sounding off about Muslims and jihad. But because it happened under the noses of the London-centric media, all hell broke loose.
“WESTMINSTER KNIFE TERROR” screamed freesheet Metro, while the i paper scoured the thesaurus to bring readers “Westminster terror suspect thwarted by armed Police” and then consulted Google Maps to reveal the bleeding obvious: “Dramatic arrest by armed officers just yards just yards from scene of recent Parliament attack”. Yeah, well, “Parliament Street” and “Parliament Square” might just have told readers that already.
The rest of the press pack does little better, with the Express howling “NEW WHITEHALL KNIFE TERROR” (he didn’t get as far as Whitehall, lads, go back to Google Maps and look again) and the Mail going with “New Westminster Terror Alert … SEIZED, WITH ‘A RUCKSACK FULL OF KNIVES’”. Where was the “new terror alert”? It was a routine operation. Was the threat level changed? No it wasn’t.
Over at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, the best they could manage was “Downing Street Terror Plot”, which is wrong twice over: Downing Street was not involved, and one suspect does not a plot make. How about the Murdoch goons at the Sun? It was down to the usual standard: “New Westminster Terror Foiled”. New Westminster terror WHAT foiled? But they knew it was a “jihadi”.
Except they didn’t, which was why they used quote marks. And there had to be a crude pun: “KNIFE ONE LADS!” Yes, the Super Soaraway Currant Bun loves the cops, except when they put the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker under surveillance, in which case it’s a diabolical liberty, innit? The boring reality is that law enforcement authorities did their homework and did their jobs. Hardly worth the screaming and ranting, was it?
But it lets the press pursue its Scary Muslims (tm) agenda, and might flog a few more papers, so that’s all right, then.