Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Waiting for the next 7/7 report

Following an early mea culpa from Tessa Jowell, (Minister in charge of disaster victims) in last weekend's Telegraph, (''We failed the 7/7 victims''), and follow up in the Guardian, ( '' New calls for 7/7 inquiry after minister's admission'') the media are starting to champ about the publication of the government's 7/7 'Lessons Learned' report. So I'm getting calls again. Which is fine, I'll talk, I'll pass on enquiries to speak to survivors. I'm been sledging away for months and months, ( scroll down blog sidebar, or hit google: Rachel North + July inquiry). And I'm going to keep on saying it; though the members of the emergency services and police and the ambulance dispatchers and the hospital workers, and many other ordinary people were heroic, angelic, it was still a mess, especially afterwards -and we still need an independent inquiry.

I keep banging on and on and on and on. Because people I care about have asked me to. Because I believe it is the right thing to do. Because it is too damn important to shut up about.

The latest 7/7 report is supposed to be out this week. Survivors and bereaved are supposed to get *prior warning of its publication. *(In my experience, and in fellow-passenger Holly's experience, that usually means getting a letter a day or so after the report has come out, and has been thoroughly covered in all the newspapers and on the news. We always know when a major 7/7 report is coming out in any case, because we spend the week before taking phone calls and getting emails from reporters and researchers keen to find out interview availability, and eager to share what they know already from leaks. It is grimly funny, in its way.)

Anyway, this latest report follows the independent London Assembly report (which asked for a full response by 30 September from the government and all organisations that were involved). After the publication of the London Assembly report - which was very critical of the aftercare of survivors, after my one-off meeting with Charles Clarke, the then-Home Secretary, in which I invited him to meet other bomb survivors, ( he accepted) and challenged him about why there was no public inquiry into 7/7 - a series of meetings with survivors and bereaved families was set up with Tessa Jowell and the new Home Secretary, John Reid.

At these meetings, they talked, we listened, we talked, they listened ( mostly). And to give them credit, the Secretaries of State sat there with their officials and they took it all; the anger, the grief, the despair. And they said they would learn, and that they would come back to us.

From those angry, painful, moving testimonies, and from the careful, compassionate, detailed work of the London Assembly Scrutiny Committee, there will be another set of pages produced on Friday, to join the pile of individual reports, and minutes, and suggestions, and learnings, and recommendations, and challenges, and arse-covering produced so far, and that famous slim pamphlet, the Official Narrative, which told us almost nothing that we hadn't already found out via the papers.

And if anyone today, a survivor, a bereaved family member, a member of the public, a fire or police officer, an ambulance driver or dispatcher, a hospital manager or doctor or nurse or emergency planner or MP wants to find out exactly what happened on 7/7 , how and why it happened, and what we have learned and how we can work together to stop it happening again, they will have a long search, and a big task ahead of them.

They will have to look all over the place, they will have to write in and ask for publications to be forwarded to them, search the internet, ( goggling meanwhile at the conspiracy theories that infest the net, having sprung up, toadstool-like in the absence of detailed and credible official information), print off pages of reports, collate and cross reference them, and at the end of it all, they will have a disparate set of answers and suggestions and guesses from all sorts of people who were involved on July 7th and afterwards.

Some of them will have talked to each other, some of them won't. Some of the reports will contradict each other, and some of them won't. Some of them will try to be independent but most of them won't, being internal inquiries and naturally keen to avoid blame. And nowhere will there be a single accessible, independent, forensic report of what the bloody hell went on and what the bloody hell we're trying to do to stop it happening again.

It's not good enough. Which is what I will say when asked, when the reporters ring again and the camera focuses on my tired face, again. But hey. Maybe this time it'll be different. Maybe this latest report will have all the answers. Maybe it will do justice to the dead, and the damaged, and the haunted, and the frightened, and the angry and the anxious. Maybe it will tell the public what they need to know, maybe it will quieten the conspiracies, lessen the sense of victimhood, give hope to the still-suffering, show how the lessons have been learned, even save lives, should it happen again.


I'm not very hopeful though.


Anonymous Pete said...

It really is astonishing that you have to go through this rigmarole to get straightforward answers to straightforward questions.

The utter shits who (supposedly) govern us are so removed from the people they are supposed to represent that it makes a mockery of parliament (non-partisan: the Tories would be just as bad, if not worse).

Keep going - you will get there in the end.

September 19, 2006 6:37 pm  
Anonymous scroblene said...

Evening Rachel - I've only recently found your blog and can say that you are totally right in asking for answers.

You are up against a disgraceful shower of incompetent jobsworths, who will make you sweat - sorry - perspire - while they justify their reasons for not concluding what is a National Disgrace.

I'm so sorry to say that your admirable posts will be looked at by the very people who should be lined up and pilloried for their grave inhumanity. However, there are others who can read as well.

My daughters rang me on that awful day to see if I was in London. I was at home as it happened, far away, but I think they are the same age as you, and I want you to know that their fear and your calmness and resolution means much to me.

I hope you will succeed in your quest to get recompense for your ordeal. I don't feel comfortable in just 'hoping you are well and can continue' - but I suspect you will.

Keep going Our Kid!

September 19, 2006 9:23 pm  
Blogger Davide Simonetti said...

I doubt this new report will tell us anything new or answer the questions that need answering, but at least it might help keep up the pressure for a public/independent inquiry. I hope so anyway.


September 20, 2006 5:24 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

I don't think the report dare being anything but honest and insightful and answer all the questions people want to know, it would be too insulting to those who died and were injured and their families.

If the report fails to provide the answers, I'm sure and others will repeat your demands for a public inquiry.

Good luck.

September 20, 2006 3:28 pm  
Anonymous partigiano said...

No-one died or was injured in our family on 7/7. There was just the horror of the first utterly unexpected phone call "i'm alright mamma, I'm indoors but Richard went for a swim in Ulu pool and there's no word.' Then the enormous sound of another explosion, down the telephone line from Marchmont Street to central Tuscany, then the silent connection. Finally the reconnection, Richard was safe but a bus had gone up 100 yards away; the request to tell the other florence parents that everyone (working and studying in that part of London) had been located, just in case they couldn't get through. Of course we don't count in the horror, we were lucky and in its midst ours escaped; but we recognized it. It'scalled the 'strategia della tensione' and was perfected in the Italy of the 1970s. Lots of suffering and deaths and terrible injuries; no satisfactory enquiries ever; investigating magistrates assassinated; all the blame on 'terrorists' , in Milan, Bologna, with Gladio . Only in the last decade has the involvement of renegade state operatives been undeniably revealed. And in London there will be no forensic, clear, properly conducted public enquiry; just the long 25 year wait and then the filth will be uncovered as it has been here. The internet is not necessarily a nest of conspiracy freaks , not always.

September 20, 2006 8:34 pm  

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