Families of those murdered in Tunisia are not going to feel better because of a slogan
The brutal murder of 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia last week was an appalling crime, regardless of the nationality of the victims.
That up to 30 were British has made the dreadful incident even more traumatic for people in this country — and put the government in the spotlight of expectation.
Ministers are routinely called on to do something. And that results in governments — consisting as they do of populist politicians — often making mawkish appeals to the gallery.
Today is an example — and sadly the Ministry of Justice has jumped on the bandwagon.
Comedian and social activist Russell Brand has already stirred the pot by describing today’s government-requested minute of silence for the Sousse victims as “bullshit”. And likewise, the MoJ’s decision — along with several other Whitehall departments — to rebrand its Twitter account with a “Remember Tunisia” badge is unfortunate.
Little at the moment will help to salve the personal grief families and friends of the dead are feeling. And even those who are complete strangers of the victims can experience an overwhelming sense of empathy and compassion in the aftermath of the shootings.
But from a public policy point of view, is it helpful for government departments to wear grief on their sleeves? Probably not. Especially when there is at least a viable argument that the actions — or lack of actions — by western governments has contributed to the growth of fanaticism.
And indeed, not all UK government departments have gone down that road. Of the great offices of state, the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office resisted the temptation to adopt the “Remember” banner, while the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Office joined the MoJ.
Also joining the MoJ from the junior Whitehall departments was health and business, innovation and skills, while education and work and pensions did not.
The so-called war on terror — which the west has been fighting ever since the 11 September attacks on the US in 2001 — has elevated every fanatical atrocity to a higher plane. But it is worth remembering that more than 600 people are murdered every year a lot closer to home — namely on the shores of the United Kingdom.
Likewise, in 2013, more than 1,700 people died on the UK’s roads, of which nearly 800 were car drivers or passengers, about 330 were motorcyclists, 109 were on pushbikes — and nearly 400 were pedestrians.
The world and life can be a dangerous and at times unfair and horrific place. Moments of silence and rebadged Twitter pages could abound.