Following the suicide attack in Manchester and as the terrorist threat level is raised to severe, Theresa May has deployed the army onto the streets of the UK to defend against imminent attack. Doubtless she will be portrayed as acting in a resolute and couragous manner in facing up to the threat we face.

However, the test of courage surely comes BEFORE a terrorist attack and not immediately after? The real test comes when decisions need to be taken in advance – decisions which might entail the curtailment of civil liberties and which might prove politically unpopular. May is unlikely to face much criticism in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester atrocity, but what if she had deployed the army BEFORE the Manchester Arena was attacked?

What if she had attempted to implement meaningful and robust anti-terrorism measures ahead of a major strike? What if she had sought to preempt, through foreign intervention, a major atrocity, possibly involving chemical or biological weapons? Would she be seen as “strong and stable”? Or would Teresa May, like Tony Blair before her, be reviled and regarded as political pariah?

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Tony Blair: Real Courage

For all his faults – and we surely all have them – Tony Blair showed real courage in the decisions he took during his premiership as he attempted to prevent Britons falling victim to possible chemical and biological attack, in addition to seeking to implement robust legislation aimed at combating the terrorist menace.

It is easy to be wise after the event: the real test comes ahead of bloodshed.

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