Saturday, July 23, 2011


Atrocity In Norway

I don’t think I’ve ever written a piece expressing my feelings about a great tragedy. It seems almost intrusive, and what good can words do? But today I feel the need to say something.

I’ve just got back from a week away, in which I was all the usual things (wet, tired, ill) and was doing my best to avoid news broadcasts – I was born in Stepping Hill Hospital and spent the first half of my life living five minutes’ walk away, and the wall-to-wall coverage of it as a murder scene made me queasy. Then this morning I woke up to the news of the massacre in Norway, and had to struggle not to be physically sick while we were packing.

I’ve never been to Norway, but I went to more political youth events – Liberal Democrat Youth and Students and others – in my teens and twenties than I can count, or even remember. To say there was a low security presence would be an understatement. Hearing about the murder of over eighty young political activists this morning, I couldn’t help but think of so many of my friends being gunned down. I can’t remember any atrocity that’s felt so close to home – even when South Quay was bombed, just up the road from our flat. It’s beyond words.

So my heart goes out to all members of the Norwegian Labour Party’s youth wing, and all those who know them. Political assassination is a despicable act – but attacking not the people in power but young people just starting to get involved, getting off their arses to change the world, that’s unimaginable horror.

The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s promise, though, that the country won’t be bombed into silence or have its faith in democracy, freedom and openness destroyed made me tear up this morning. And I have to say he struck a much better note than some other world leaders, including sadly David Cameron, who talked up the terror threat – here from a far right Christian theocrat – to make us all scared, rather than Mr Stoltenberg’s determination to hang onto their traditions of tolerance. When evil bastards literally attack your values, he made exactly the right response: you prize your values more dearly and practise them more passionately, not throw them out.

I hope that, if it had happened here and I’d survived, I wouldn’t have been scared off being involved. Being a part of the Lib Dem Youth and Students changed my life and, I hope, changed a few bigger things as well (so if you feel like contributing to Liberal Youth today…). Whatever party you’re in, whatever tradition you come from, whatever philosophy you believe in, now’s the time to encourage young people to stand up and be counted, not to tell them what a terrible place the world is and that all they can do is cower under batons and battier laws.

I recommend the moving insights from Stephen Glenn, Niklas Smith and Anders Hanson, too.

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Can I add my own feelings of shock and outrage to what Alex has written.

All i could think was of a generation of LDYS being wiped out. It was awful.

All our support goes to the good and brave people of Noway at this terrible time
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