Whenever Britain suffers a terrorist attack — and it has suffered four Islamist attacks this year alone — the British public responds the same way.
Twelve years ago, when four suicide bombers detonated homemade bombs on the London underground and on a red-top bus in central London, there was much talk of “Blitz spirit”. After 7/7, the media erupted with boasts of wartime echoes. Some people who lived in London noticed a rather different atmosphere. Of course people “got on with their lives” (what else could they do?) but in the days and weeks after the attacks it was not really “business as usual”. Especially not after another four suicide bombers went onto the tube a fortnight later, on July 21, and attempted to repeat the exercise. Fortunately, on that occasion the bombs failed to detonate. But during the period that ensued, it was certainly easier than usual to get a seat on the London Underground.
Of course, political leaders relish the opportunity to accentuate and exaggerate these echoes. If the British public are the citizens of London in the Blitz, then the politicians are Winston Churchill. After attacks like the 2013 daytime slaughter of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of London, then-Prime Minister David Cameron stressed from the steps of Downing Street that “One of the best ways of defeating terrorism is to go about our normal lives. And that is what we shall all do.” These themes are thought to play deep to the spirit of the British people.