The Week in Review: Terror returns to London
It was the week in which terror returned to British streets. This time it did not involve explosives or even gunfire, but an old weapon: the machete. The brutality of the attack felt more horrific than usual. There was something about how old fashioned it was – medieval almost – which sent shivers through us as we read the news. And when you stood back from it, the facts were stark: a British soldier killed on British streets by Islamic extremists.
The response was reassuring. The English Defence League tried to organise a protest in Woolwich but just 100 or so of them turned up. While there were a spate of anti-Muslim attacks, the reaction to the killing was broadly tempered. The Islamic community came out with unified message of condemnation which bore the hallmarks of preparation. David Cameron rose to the occasion, with a statement to the press ruling out any knee-jerk legislative responses and praising the Muslim community of Britain. He continues to be at his best during a crisis.
His steely, confident response to the attack was in marked contrast to his increasingly desperate efforts to keep his party under control this week. With gay marriage in the Commons for two days, there were plenty of opportunities for the lunatic fringe of the Tory party to utter garbled jolts of nonsense.
Norman Tebbit took his opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. Gerald Howarth did the same. The Tories veered wildly about coming perilously close to becoming the 'stop the world I want to get off' party. That, of course, is Ukip's job and the Kippers indeed saw the Conservatives try to make a land-grab on some of their themes. It didn't do them much good. One poll put Ukip just two percentage points behind the Tories.
A Tory attempt to derail the gay marriage bill using an amendment on straight civil partnerships fell apart when Miliband ordered his MPs to back a Labour amendment instead. It was a perfect moment of parliamentary theatre – the Labour leader saving his Tory opponent's fortune with a surprising amount of principle. Miliband is starting to save Cameron's bacon on a daily basis.
By the mid-point of the week, Clegg was giving Tory backbenchers both barrels, and so was Cameron in his own way. You almost felt for a moment like the deputy prime minister felt sorry for him, although that's probably been beaten out of him at this point in his career.
Recess next week, so news may be low on the ground. What? You don't expect them to work for more than a day or two at a time do you?