The heart of Government Attacked – a few quick thoughts
by Philip Ingram MBE
3rd October 2019, whilst the Prime Minister is being quizzed on his latest Brexit proposals a few hundred meters away, a bright and chilly day in central London and a red Dennis Fire Engine comes to a gentle halt outside HM Treasury on Horse Guards Road in Westminster. There are armed police throughout the wider area, security staff on the door.
Next we see protesters unfurl a hose from the fire engine and climb on top of it pointing it at the entrance to the Treasury Building with the security staff no doubt wondering what was going on. A banner is unfurled on the side of the fire engine, stating “Stop Funding Climate Change” and then the vehicles pump is started an a red coloured liquid is sprayed towards the front entrance of the Treasury Building, some staining the sand stone façade before the hose popped from its nozzle and snaked around the back of the appliance, out of control, pumping 1800 litres of water with red dye all over the road, pavement and passers-by.
As this was happening, people continued to loiter not far from the entrance of the treasury building, there was no sign of a coordinated reaction, no sign of ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ from anyone. The police were not on the scene, there was no evidence of any reaction, bar bemusement, never mind a well-rehearsed security protocol anywhere. The press reaction is equally one of bemusement at a snaking hose rather than this being a successful attack.
This has to be one of the most worrying, highly visible attacks on our critical national infrastructure, the heart of government, the focus for economic stability in a tumultuous period, that has largely gone without any reaction or comment of substance. Is it right to say, “oh its ok its only those daft Extinction Rebellion types?” “It was only harmless red dyed water?” The harmless nature of the liquid was only known after the fact.
The total Metropolitan Police response was in two messages on Twitter as seen in the picture below:
The ‘Privately Owned’ fire engine could have been carrying so much more. It looks like its livery acted as a perfect disguise to get a vehicle capable of carrying a massive load into the heart of Government. 1800 litres of water would could have been replaced with 1800kg of explosives. The 1800 litres could have been some other harmful liquid, it could have been contaminated water, contaminated with dangerous or deadly chemicals.
This incident throws up so many questions. Did the door staff at the entrance to the Treasury building initiate a protocol commensurate with a possible hostile attack? Why were the doors open and a security guards head pops out before it being gently shut? Why was the building not immediately locked down until the threat could be ascertained? Where was the police response 50+m from the back of Downing Street and a few hundred metres from the Palace of Westminster? How did a vehicle with hostile intent get so close to a critical government building unchallenged? What are the lessons being pulled out of this and how will procedures change? And so many more.
If anything, we have to thank the @XRebellionUK team for highlighting a very real security loophole which I have no doubt will have been noticed by those with desires for a much more deadly intent. The whole reaction seems to have missed the potential for what could have been and smacks of complacency. Complacency never leads to a good outcome. Let’s hope those with more malicious intent don’t infiltrate the planned @XRebellionUK climate protests as it would seem an easy route given the reaction to this incident.