London Myths No.2 – London Is A War Zone

London

Do we really need to go here? Yes, because when a corrupt dictator tries to turn the USA into a banana republic everyone else suffers, and the offensive, ignorant nonsense he spouted about London was parroted by Fox News, stoking the flames of racism.

So, some facts. Terrorist attacks; London is a multicultural democracy of almost nine million with over 300 languages currently spoken in schools, including Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin and Hokkien. It has always been a terrorist target of some sort, being a port because of its river, and a financial centre because it straddles the world’s main time zones, allowing for 24 hour trading.

MI5 currently assesses the threat level of international terrorism as Severe. This is one below the highest threat level, and means an attack is ‘highly likely’. The threat is the same for most major European cities. Although  attacks are devastating, statistically it is highly unlikely visitors will be hurt in a terrorist incident. The number of fatal traffic accidents is higher by multiples of many hundreds.

Knife crime is higher compared to early decades, and remains localised within ethnic communities in the 16-24 group. Gun crime, until recently almost unknown, climbed this year, again primarily affecting the same demographic.

There is minimal racial tension between Caucasians and Muslims in London. We have a Muslim Mayor, Sadiq Kahn, elected because he was the best man for the job and his religion and ethnicity are irrelevant. Unlike his public school predecessors he is in touch with real working Londoners, and is greatly admired.

I live in London’s highest risk zone for terror attacks, in an area that suffered three devastating bombs on the same day. In each case I was one or two streets away, walking. A large proportion of the tube’s daily 5 million passengers pass through King’s Cross, plus there are 3 national/international overland stations. That’s a lot of people. I have lived here or nearby, on and off, for most of my life. How many serious incidents have I personally witnessed?

None.

London crime is largely about nicked phones and antisocial behaviour, but it badly needs to counter attacks by the ill-informed. An army of public sector workers are helping to build bridges in the new communities that have appeared at London’s edges. The new Crossrail system, carrying workers from the outskirts to the centre, will dramatically change the city once more.

More importantly, London feels safe. Don’t take my word for it; ask anyone who comes here.

 

16 comments on “London Myths No.2 – London Is A War Zone”

  1. Brooke says:

    Don’t go there…believers in Trump/Fox are not interested in facts and are perhaps fact-phobic. E.g. the one juror holding out against conviction of Manafort on all counts is a Trump supporter; Fox is broadcasting sympathetic interviews. Do you want them to visit London? Why? Let them believe they will encounter the most rampant multiculturalism –almost Amsterdam— and they should stay at home.

    We who love London are planning more trips there –sorry, taking advantage of the exchange rates. We’ll make up for it by buying more.

  2. Peter Tromans says:

    My greatest fright in London has been on the roads. I was run down by a cyclist making the wildest of maneuvers. The impact sent me flying through the air and bent the front wheel and some of the frame of the cycle. I had to say I was fine as several witnesses wanted the cyclist arrested. Possibly POTUS would say he was a terrorist.

    In Amsterdam, there are not only cyclists, but also trams. Try not to wander in front of one! They are much less forgiving than bikes. I’ve seen a tourist within inches of death saved by a quick thinking local.

    Why did anyone invent the acronym POTUS? Was it originally and insult? It sounds awful: a mixture of impotent and pus.

  3. Brooke says:

    POTUS–I think it’s a code name for the office that was used in early 1900s and unfortunately became popular with Obama/tech crowd, .

  4. Helen Martin says:

    It’s just (the) President Of The United States and I remember hearing it used in The West Wing (the program not the place).
    I never felt at risk walking through your neighbourhood, Chris, nor using the King’s Cross station. There were lots of people, that’s all. Of course, I’m one of those people who dines early and comes home to watch the news and go to bed. I understand the medieval desire to close shutters after dark. I couldn’t imagine a safer place than Trafalgar Square. The only place I felt watched and suspect was in Old Monkland outside Glasgow and that was because I obviously didn’t belong. If you don’t draw attention to yourself nobody in London will pay attention to you. Be invisible. I’ll admit that if being invisible involves tattoos, spike heels,or leather jackets it might be problematic but I had a very pleasant chat with a Hell’s Angels member while waiting for a ferry once, so first impressions are not necessarily accurate. My son was having a bird in the car while I had that chat, but what did he know?

  5. Jan says:

    I ‘ve been out of town for a long old time now
    . But think there’s a good possibility you might be amounts the ill informed here yourself Me. F.

  6. Jan says:

    That should read amongst of course

  7. Denise Treadwell says:

    What is a knife arch?

  8. Ian Luck says:

    Denise – A ‘Knife Arch’ is a detector system to check if people are carrying knives, etc. They will be in use at the Notting Hill Carnival. It’s like those in use in airports, and Government and some Municipal buildings. Leave that Kukri at home folks! (BANTER). I don’t get to wander round London as often as I’d like, nowadays – but I have never had any trouble, or cause to be worried when visiting. The trick is not to look like a tourist. Don’t stand around looking lost, squinting at an A to Z, for example. I tend not to go to the ‘Touristy’ bits, so I don’t have problems with touts, etc. I usually dress in Doctor Martens’ boots (perfect for long walks, and don’t squeak on museum or art gallery floors), old denims, t-shirt, and old leather jacket, with a satchel type bag (preferably with a zip and buckled flap type fastening), worn ‘Indiana Jones’ style, under the jacket. Should the weather be hot, I wear an old M43 jacket. If cold, a Donkey Jacket or a Crombie, over a jumper and scarf (or a Shemagh, which is such a great bit of kit), and whatever hat is suitable. Nobody takes the slightest bit of notice, I have found. Never wear clothing that has things like ‘I (heart) London’ on it, as though it may be true, it marks you out as a tourist straight away.

  9. Ian Luck says:

    The only time that I have regretted not doing something in London, was in 2007, when I was walking througb central London with a friend, and we were both dismayed at what was happening to Soho. As we approached Soho Square, out of a building came a familiar figure – at least to people in the UK. It was Simon Weston, (Now Simon Weston CBE), a survivor of an horrific attack on HMS Galahad, during the Falklands War, in 1982. He sustained around 42% burns, for which he endured several years of surgical operations, and astonishingly remaining positive and cheerful throughout, and doing remarkable work for charity. My friend and me debated whether we should go and shake his hand, as we both admired him (I still do, he’s an incredible human being), but he seemed deep in thought, so we decided not to bother him. But as we were walking towards him anyway we decided to… and a taxi drew up, he got in, and sped away. Damn.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    That’s the thing; when you meet someone with a public face do you speak or leave them alone? The billions and billions astronomy man sat next to my son & me at Expo 86 in Vancouver. We silently asked each other if we should speak but decided not to because he had his wife and small son with him and they were obviously enjoying the fair. I think the rule might be that you can speak if you make eye contact but if the person is involved, in a hurry, or otherwise focused, then not.

  11. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – I’m intrigued. You mention the ‘Billions and billions’ man. Would that be the late, very great Doctor Carl Sagan? His 1990 ‘Pale blue dot’ speech is the most shattering hard fact illustration of insignificance ever written, or committed to film. It always moves me to tears, as it is beautifully written, and, more to the point, true. One of the Voyager probes, speeding out of our solar system, had it’s cameras swung back towards earth. Looking back through deep space, they took pictures… in them, taking up one pixel, was a pale, blue dot. As Sagan says: “That’s here. That’s us.” If you’ve never seen it, I urge you to seek it out. It’s on youtube.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Thank you, Ian. It would indeed be Dr. Sagan. People copied his speech pattern but he cared so very much about his subject. Names often disappear on me like that. Always names of people about whom I care.

  13. Ian Luck says:

    I thought it might be. He’s one of a few people that I’d class as ‘heroes’ of mine. His show, ‘Cosmos’ was essential viewing for me, and he had that wonderful ability, to make huge, mind-blowing ideas and concepts come alive, and be relatable, even to the man in the street – I’m thinking about his description of black holes, and Eratosthanes measuring the earth, here, for two good examples of this. You’re right about his speech patterns, too – I was in the last year of school when his show was first broadcast here in the UK, and a lot of kids picked up on it. I have a t-shirt, which parodies the old ‘Jesus Is My Homeboy’ slogan, with, of course, ‘Carl Sagan Is My Homeboy’ on it.

  14. Helen Martin says:

    Yes, we watched that program, too, and I would like to see it again, even if there is more information to add to what he gave us then. Do you realise that was before 1986 and how long ago that is? My son was only twenty then and now he’s over 50. I feel so old.

  15. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – a few years ago, there was a new series of ‘Cosmos’ made, featuring the superb Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It expanded on a lot of the original show, and like the original, featured a ‘Ship Of The Mind’. It’s a worthy successor to the original, and worthy of a ‘binge watch’. Another person in this line worth watching, is Doctor Brian Cox. His shows about the universe are equally superb. A show we have on the BBC is the long running ‘The Sky At Night’, which, for many years, was presented by Sir Patrick Moore, who had his own observatory in his back garden, and mapped the moon for NASA prior to the Apollo landings. After he died, a few years ago, the show was presented by Brian May, guitarist for the rock band, Queen. He’s a professor of Astrophysics. Yes, really.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    I’ll have to try for that remake, Ian. There is nothing in rock music that forbids people with brains and knowledge from taking part. Somehow I think I’d heard that before and forgotten.

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