The previous government would have used this plot to introduce another wave of invasive legislation – never, ever, downplay the possible consequences to justify I.D. cards, deeper control orders and further suspension of Habeas Corpus.
The coalition agreement is plain on these matters:
‘We will be strong in defence of freedom. The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties. We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness.
We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion.’
So far, COBRA has recommended that freight from the Yemen be suspended and subject to tighter scrutiny in future, which seems reasonable. But the government faces an internal battle over control orders, and no doubt other tensions lie beyond the horizon.
The responsibilities of office are grave, but the coalition should not baulk from its ambition to dispel authoritarianism. This plot originated abroad. It would be counter-productive to antagonise the domestic strain of Islamist with alarmist rhetoric or yet more draconian measures.
UPDATE: Theresa May has just addressed the House. She was calm and there was, understandably, consensus across the House about the need for a measured response to the specific Yemeni threat. May made two important announcements. First, nothing is being ruled out, including ethnic screening at passenger airports and further restrictions will be made on what passengers can carry - printer toner cartridges will be banned, for example. Second, unaccompanied air freight from Somalia and the Yemen, seen as the 'soft-underbelly' of our security arrangements by some, will be suspended forthwith.