Oh What Timing: The Manchester Arena Bombing

Hunts Bank
Hunts Bank, Manchester (via Google Maps). To the right, Manchester Victoria train station, to the left, the steps up to Manchester Arena.

It was just before midnight that I started to notice on my Twitter feed some posts about an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert…and then that it was in Manchester. It’s pushing 3am now.

I am being uncharacteristically presumptuous with my title. As I write, no one has confirmed that it is a bombing, only that it is being treated as an act of terrorism.

Reports say 19 are dead and over 50 injured. Experience suggests both figures will rise.

Experience says this was a bombing.

I feel a number of emotions right now. Mostly, I am disgusted at this attack at what was essentially a kids’ concert and I would also expect that most of the attendees were female, which in my view also speaks to their level of innocence in any actual or perceived crimes committed by the state that this may be in retaliation against (presuming the reason – I know).

I’m also familiar with the venue. The Manchester Arena is in the Northern Quarter of Manchester city centre. It is a massive indoor arena with a foyer going around it, much like most modern large sports stadia.

It has two major exits on the north and south sides. You can get to Manchester Victoria train station from either side, and get right into the station for the train or tram.

The north side is where most of the nearby car parking is, the south side is nearest the train station main entrance, and a taxi rank, and for buses, as well as trains and trams, but it is also the city centre side, so I believe it is the busiest of all the exits from the venue.

This is where I believe this explosion occurred.

The clips online of a guy whose dashboard caught the light of the blast also indicates this.

This car park is to the east of Victoria train station.

The roof you see light up is the station itself. The partial transparency means that you are seeing the explosion occur on the other side of the building – which is right where that south exit to the arena is. If the explosion occurred elsewhere, the size of the arena and the multi-storey car parks would probably have blocked any such light.

Another thing about that venue is the steepness of the steps that some people have to go up to get out. With issues such as steep steps, the seer size of the venue, and with it likely to be either full or close to capacity, it takes time to empty.

I’m not going to post any video of the panic from inside, but it is not surprising. A venue full of youngsters, some of whom would have been unchaperoned, whilst inside, at least (whilst parents or guardians may have enjoyed the city night life nearby), who are suddenly presented with an existential threat, whilst lacking experience of any such situation, and perhaps also lacking any adult supervision, would have undoubtedly resulted in sheer panic from all too many.

I am not one to jump to rash conclusions, but I don’t see how this can be anything other than a sickening terrorist attack.

And I don’t want to hear anyone say this was indiscriminate. You don’t blow up a bomb outside an Ariana Grande concert, as people are leaving, and not expect to kill a lot of kids.

This is without doubt going to cause a massive backlash.

Now think of the political ramifications.

Indeed, as it happens, I kind of already was.

As well as checking online the many sources I have, to see what was happening, I couldn’t help but look at my own timeline, and my last three tweets to date, two of which were posted after the explosion, but what must have been minutes before I found out about it.

I was tweeting after I saw a tweet from parody account, @FrancisUrquhart, which is the character from the UK’s House of Cards, and the subsequent To Play The King and The Final Cut.

In The Final Cut, Urquhart’s past is coming back to bite him and he is looking at being dethroned as Prime Minister. He tries to stir-up a conflict in a foreign country in order to have an, “our Falklands” moment – a reference to Margaret Thatcher’s managing to win the 1983 General Election, having sent troops to The Falklands, following an Argentinian invasion. This at a time when things were not looking good for her Tory Government, in the polls beforehand.

These days, Tony Blair insists that ‘Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the ‘80s know every line of [Corbyn’s] script. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work.’ But at the time, according to the journalist Michael Cockerell, Blair drew a different lesson, as he reportedly told Robin Cook: ‘The thing I learned… is that wars make prime ministers popular.’

From 1983: the biggest myth in Labour Party history

Given the state of the current Tory party, with the PM looking “Weak and wobbly” and having back-tracked on the “Manifesto of Chaos”, I posted the following, unaware of what had just happened in Manchester.

I’m pretty cynical of the UK Government and its willingness to exploit matters abroad for political ends; in order to appear on the right side of a military victory, or to profit from arm sales to those involved in conflict.

But I doubt even the Tories would stoop quite so low as to bomb civilians in the UK, let alone at a concert of an American pop star, in order to change the dynamic of the current General Election campaign.

I also don’t think they are competent enough to get away with any such atrocity for any length of time, let alone permanently, so no, I’m not espousing any conspiracy theory on this barbarity.

Now I wouldn’t expect anything short of a tough response from any UK government to this atrocity, whatever its political persuasion, but seriously what timing. Just over a fortnight to a UK General Election.

No doubt the terrorists want to affect the outcome of the General Election. No doubt this will result in the Tory Government being able to put on its “strong and stable leadership” face, in a way that opposition parties simply cannot do, because they do not form the government – and just when The Tories were looking anything but.

The terrorists have created mayhem and thrown May a bone at the same time.

To cap off this night of tragedy and coincidence, that third and final tweet which I mentioned was my regularly scheduled #MusicAtMidnight tweet, which posted automatically whilst I was finding out what was happening in Manchester.

My music choice happened to be a Warrington band, who are often referred to as a Manchester band – with some justification – but oh, when thinking where exactly this happened, the song as well…

Railway Road.

I’m fond of that song, so I hope the connection with last night fades.

As to the politics of the moment, we need to all do the right thing by the dead, the injured and their families and the otherwise affected or afflicted. Let’s give them the space they need and the time to grieve – but when that is done, let us not be swayed by the wants of people who would willfully target kids enjoying themselves, and not let this event in any way colour how the General Election of 2017 pans out.

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