Terrorist designs on Ross-on-Wye and Abbey Dore? It sounds rather extreme. But is it any sillier than this contribution by Charles Clarke to the debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill on 28 February:
Thank you to the people in Hereford who are part of the effort against the terrorists.
If we LOSE against the terrorists, do you suppose a rural area such as Herefordshire would be immune? Look at Chernobyl. Just by an accident, an area larger than the UK was poisened (sic.) Don't you suppose it would be hugely more serious if they did it on purpose?
The Government take the view that we must take all reasonable and practical steps to protect people in this country from those determined to destroy our way of life, and the Prevention of Terrorism Bill does precisely that."Destroy our way of life?" Think about it. Can you imagine Tony Blair going on the BBC and saying something like "The terrorist outrages of recent days leave me no alternative but to declare Britain a fundamentalist Muslim state"? Of course not.
Terrorists kill people, which is why they must be stopped. They do not threaten our way of life. The slaughter of 9/11 did not begin to undermine Americans' confidence in the rightness of their system of government. In fact it seems to have had just the opposite effect.
Perhaps we are more insecure in Britain. Certainly, there is something telling about the way that a terrorist attack on America has had such an effect on New Labour when we in Western Europe have been living with terrorism for decades.
There is a tendency to deny this history. People argue that present-day terrorism is something new because it attempts to kill as many people as possible. This has the perverse effect of playing down the crimes of the Provisional IRA and turning them into a cuddly 1970s' answer to the Kray Twins. "They was real gents. People was safe when they were planting bombs round here. They never touched kids. Well, technically they did...."
What can threaten our way of life, of course, is hasty legislation like the Prevention of Terrorism Act.