A leading security expert explains why Britain has been more secure—but perhaps not secure enoughby Serena Kutchinsky / November 15, 2015 / Leave a comment
“I will be pleasantly surprised if there is not a significant [terror] attack in Britain in the next 12 months,” Michael Clarke, the director of the leading defense and security think tank, RUSI, told Prospect in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris which left 129 dead, and another 352 injured. He believes that terrorists might choose to strike outside of London, due to the capital becoming increasingly “securitised” over the past decade.
Today, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, chaired an emergency meeting of Cobra to discuss the UK government’s response to the attacks in Paris. The threat level in this country has yet to be raised from its current level of “severe” but when questioned on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, May said that the government would now review the security situation and “see if there any further lessons we need to learn.”
The government’s reluctance to raise the threat level could stem from a belief that British security services are better equipped to track homegrown terrorists than their French counterparts. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, an event that heightened awareness in this country of that particular threat.
“The British government took counter terrorism more seriously than the French partly because of the IRA experience [in the 1980s], but also partly because there was a realisation after 9/11 that this was a millennial struggle… We haven’t always been the leaders in the field but we have done more than most,” Clarke said.
“There has been complacency in France in the last few years,” he said. Since 2001, there have been over “60 attempts at significant [terror] attacks” in Britain, of which only two—the 7/7 bombings and the Lee Rigby murder—have worked. The rest were foiled by a combination of what he describes as effective intelligence and luck, saying that at least four other plots only failed because the bombs were made incorrectly and failed to go off.