The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

8:41am on Monday, 11th April, 2005:



On May 5th, we're going to have a general election. This is a periodic event in which a few thousand voters living in marginal constituencies get to decide who will run the country for the next 4 or 5 years.

Actually, it could be decided by even fewer people than that. It could be decided by one, lucky suicide bomber.

After the success of the Madrid bombings in determining who won the general election in Spain in 2004, who's to say that we won't see something similar tried here in the UK? Naturally, we all hope we won't see anything like it, but what if we did? What would happen?

The question everyone would be asking is whether the general election should proceed as planned or be postponed. Politicians would have to speak on the issue, but would be be unable to do so without giving the impression that they were electioneering. If a party argued for a delay of a week or so, would people think this was out of respect for the dead or because they were doing badly in the opinion polls? The emotion of the aftermath would skew all deliberation: some people would insist on delaying the election until the dead were buried, while others would insist that we don't pander to terrorists and should press on regardless, all in a very highly-charged atmosphere.

What we ought to do is decide beforehand what would happen in such an event. That way, we can look at things without the pressure of high emotion, so that should the worst happen we can enact our earlier plan. No party could appear to use the tragedy as a vote-winning exercise, and its influence on the result would be contained. Key to this would be getting cross-party agreement on the course of action to take, and announcing the result well in advance of polling day (so as to discourage any potential terrorists from trying to influence the election in the first place). At the very least, the party leaders should agree beforehand to issue a joint statement on any atrocity as soon as possible afterwards.

Hopefully, the situation would never arise. Terrorists who did their homework would realise that interfering in a British general election in this way would almost certainly lead to a result counter to their requirements.

That said, terrorists aren't renowned for their cultural sensitivity...

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).