The Spectator's Notes
CHARLES MOORE 1 t is not possible to speak of a terrorist incident as being a good thing, but if it were, these latest would qualify. First, no innocent person was killed in London or Glasgow. Second, information was immediately collected by the authorities, thanks to the would-be killers' bungling, and more will follow. Often when terrorists are captured they do not break under interrogation because they have been trained as 'soldiers'. But I gather from experts that failed suicide bombers are in a different category. They were trained only to die, and so they have not been trained to live. Having survived, they start blabbing. There is good reason to hope that this will happen in the case of the singed fanatics in Glasgow (at least the one who is not badly injured). Third, it is helpful that more people are now aware that terrorism is not necessarily linked to 'deprivation', and is also a middle-class problem. This has always been the case, and it is nothing new that doctors are involved. Osama bin Laden's number two, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, has a degree in surgery (does it make him extra good at cutting off hands?), and the now dead leader of Hamas, Dr Abdel al-Rantissi, was a qualified physician. But the latest harvest of medicos, if it results in convictions, will rebuke the NHS, which tends smugly to assume that anyone working for it is automatically a decent person. Educated professionals make the most dangerous terrorists — the least corruptible, the most self-righteous, the most resourceful, the most twisted. It is good to know our enemy. Finally, the Glasgow incident may help to shake Scottish complacency. Despite the fact that there are racial tensions in Scotland (there have sometimes been revolting attacks on asylum-seekers), the lack of a major terrorist incident allowed Scottish politicians to imply that it was only horrible England which brought such disasters upon itself. Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, went on air after the Glasgow incident, praising Muslims for `the integral part they play' in Scottish life. If it had been Englishmen who had driven bombs into the airport, would he have had similar praise for the English part in his nation's culture?
The release of Alan Johnston is a perfect propaganda achievement by Hamas. Simultaneously looking merciful and strong, the terrorist group now has an armlock on the BBC. It decides which correspondent lives and which dies. It will make that decision on the basis of how its work is reported. Look out for BBC stuff on Hamas as the new moderates of the Middle East.
n Sunday I went to my first real pop concert. I had been asked to write the introduction to the programme for the Concert for Diana, which was held on what would have been the Princess's 46th birthday. As a result, Princes William and Harry kindly invited the Moore family, among many others, to come to the concert and join their lunch at Wembley beforehand. It was all very jolly, and it struck me that the young princes have been much more successfully brought up in the spirit of their own generation than was their father. They moved among us all with relaxed good manners and gave every impression of enjoying themselves. They seemed to have lots of real friends, all equally relaxed without being tiresome. A comparable occasion for Prince Charles at the same age would have unimaginable: the distance royalty then required would have been too great. Pop music, with its emphasis on vague niceness, dissolves social awkwardness.
T t also goes on and on. The whole thing, if 1 you include the party at the end, for which we were not able to stay, took 12 hours. Who says that the young have a short attention span? It is the older ones who get impatient. My wife, who knows even less about these things than I do, was very disapproving of my plan to have my mobile phone on during the concert, imagining it ringing embarrassingly at a musical climax, as it might at Glyndebourne. In fact, of course, it was simply inaudible. She came armed with an 800-page pre-war Hungarian novel, and got through most of it. I brought Gavin Stamp's marvellous book The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, and realised that, by chance, I was reading it on the anniversary of that terrible battle.
Nearly 20,000 British troops died on that day, 1 July 1916. Stamp makes a persuasive case that Lutyens's Thiepval monument is the best of all the commemorations of the dead. He reminds us that the architect sought dignity but not triumph. Lutyens said that memorials should not be built on the sites of victories, Tor I hold that there is equality in sacrifice and the men who fell at Quatre Bras are just as worthy of honour as those who fell at Waterloo.' In the Princes' words of welcome at the concert, Prince Harry sent a message of support to his comrades in the Household Cavalry now serving in Iraq. The audience cheered, and I was glad of this serious thought. But I was also glad to think that, whatever the defects of the modem world, it is at least unlikely that the happy young people dancing to the sound of Nelly Furtado will soon be dead in the mud.
T n our Sussex village, though, the war in 1 Iraq has hit home. Corporal John Rigby was serving with the 4th Battalion The Rifles, with his twin brother, William. He was hit by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Basra on 22 June and died a few hours later. His brother was with him. John Rigby was a much-loved and admired young man. His score on the promotion board for the rank of sergeant rated him, aged only 23, the best corporal in all the five battalions of the Rifles. When boys at our local secondary school, he and Will took part in the first-ever school party to reach the North Pole. He was a thoughtful soldier, a reader of history, with an interest in archaeology encouraged by his grandfather, who is a museum curator. John Rigby's mother is a long-standing teacher at the village primary school, and his father is a surveyor locally. The family are part of what used to be called the backbone of England. It must be an addition to their pain that their son died in a war which is unpopular, so Lutyens's words seem particularly apposite and, I hope, comforting. There is, in fact, a Memorial to the Missing of the First World War in Basra (yes, we have been there before), but luckily Corporal Rigby's body is not missing. His funeral took place at Dover Castle this week, and he is interred in the county where he spent his short and good life.
ndless rain. Normally, mice are a problem for us only in the winter. But the fields are so saturated that our house has experienced a midsummer invasion. We have caught 18 mice in the past fortnight. We freeze them and take them off to the local owl sanctuary.