Philip Bobbitt, the acclaimed author of ‘The Shield of Achilles’, says that the attacks were the work of an ultra-modern movement — closer to Mastercard than the IRA in structure. The worst is not inevitable: but it is distinctly possibleWith terror, the murderous act itself is always nihilistic; it is the reaction that gives the atrocity political meaning. The meaning of the London transport bombings is that a society accustomed to the predations of the IRA and, within living memory, the terror bombing of the second world war will not be easily shaken.
Is it ethical to snoop around an Archbishop’s sitting-room? Surely, I decide, a gentle stroll around furniture is OK: past a gilt mirror and a large crucifix, past a picture book of the Jewish Haggadah and over to a baby grand tucked into the curve of a bay window. There are two piano pieces on the stand and no sign of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor — it seems sensible, not sneaky, to see if the music offers any insight into the man’s mind.
The Scotch First Minister, Jack McConnell, will doubtless be huddled before a television screen today, dressed in a Portugal football shirt and perhaps munching salted cod, out of respect. An awful lot of his compatriots will be doing the same thing: the Treaty of Windsor, signed with Portugal in 1386, may well be the longest lasting alliance in English military history, but it will be superseded by the less formal, 90-minute Treaty of Gelsenkirchen between Scotland and Portugal.