Any terrorist attack's awful, however if I've never been there I don't have a clue about why the place was chosen. But I have been to La Ramblas, indeed I stayed in a second floor hotel room that looked directly on to the boulevard for close to a week so I know it's slow to pick up steam, it's reasonably busy around lunch, slows a little around siesta time and comes alive after sunset.
The Moroccan teenagers who carried out the attack knew what they were doing, so with a rented van they succeeded in killing 13 people on the spot and wounded another 100. We know from other attacks that a goodly number of those wounded will have sustained life changing damage - and some may even wish they hadn't survived.
What we know is the police were on the scene within minutes; Las Ramblas is a huge tourist draw, so that's to be expected. But our lot took quite some time to get to the folk who had been exposed to a partial explosion on the London tube just before it reached Parsons Green station.
I've passed through Parsons Green many times and it's severely elevated, meaning there are a couple of flights of stairs to navigate, so some of the 30 who were wounded were caught up in the stampede to get as far away from the train as possible. It's a feature of all these atrocities; those who fight, punch, kick, shove, bite or intimidate are the ones who survive. If you're young, old or infirm, just get out the way until the panic subsides.
There's an article about a 13 year old boy who tripped on the stairs and was trampled by people who really had no choice but to keep on moving (01). Try stopping in a situation like that and you'll end up in the same position - and don't for one second think people will hesitate to just climb over you. They will and they'll kick footholds in the pile of humanity as well.
Hats off to our intelligence services, they worked round the clock to connect the movements of the phone that triggered the device on the train. It's not easy work and is labor intensive so that meant for several days after the explosion police were taken off regular duty and joined in the hunt.
So far the finger points to a teenager who came over to the UK as a child refugee. It may be him who triggered the device, or it may not. At this point it doesn't much matter.
Yes most of these attacks are carried out by people who have "Arab" names and claim to be Muslims, however that does not give anyone the right to launch revenge attacks. One moron ran into a group of older people when they exited a mosque in London, while another couple of morons decided - on 24 Sept 2017 - to stab a Muslim surgeon who had volunteered to help victims of the Manchester Arena attacks (02).
These are just random vigilante type attacks carried out by intellectually challenged characters who use this as an excuse to vent their bigotry. What they do simply adds to the feeling of insecurity felt by many of us. And that's why they felt the need to erect anti-terror barriers during the Edinburgh Festival this year (03).
These things cost money - public money. We've been at a severe threat level for several years and after Manchester and Parsons Green that was raised to critical. At critical we see lots of armed police as well as military personnel, while at severe we just see occasional armed police at critical locations, like airports. Again that costs taxpayers pots of money - and we know we simply do not have the people to sustain critical for more than a couple of days.
Londoners are on edge; they know perfectly well they live in a prime target area and they will follow the official advice of "run, hide, tell". That's exactly what they did in Parsons Green - and I can't blame them. There will be more attacks, some in London, some elsewhere in the UK. And if you're the same as myself then you'll probably want to see more people in the anti-terror units and lots more police in areas most likely to be targeted by terrorists.
So it it seemed insanely stupid that they intend reducing the anti-terror budget by £50 million (04)! This is sending the wrong message to our security forces as well as the general public, many of whom would like to see more police as well as a faster response time when any incident occurs.
For sure there have been some spectacular examples of waste. The cost of investigating claims against Edward Heath is estimated to have cost £1.2 million (05). Money so far poured into the search for Madeleine McCann exceeds £11 million. And taxpayers coughed up £10 million for police to stop Julian Assange from escaping from his embassy hideaway (06), until they pulled they plug on that fiasco in 2015 - and Julian still hasn't shifted, despite the lack of armed police.
Of course there are many more examples, especially investigations against dead politicians and celebrities. Then there's this silliness of them investigating people who make insulting or hurtful comments on social media (don't like it, then get off it). And there are far too many cases where the establishment has interfered to stop legitimate investigations, so leading to kids being brutalised by real rapists and the victims the Hillsborough disaster waiting for decades to get closure.
Yet all the while the army of tobacco controllers continues to expand at an exponential rate. The Smoke Free Action Coalition now claims a staggering "more than 300 organisations committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco (07)", with all of them financed in some way or another by the public purse. The amount given by the government toward tobacco reduction is £200 million each year and Bob Blackman MP wants that hiked to £300 million (08), all this at a time when there are fewer people smoking or taking up the pastime.
There are thousands of people who go to make up the Smoke Free Action Coalition. But there's more; Britain currently helps finance a European initiative, called "Smoke Free Partnership" that claims 42 "partners" throughout the EU (09), so more people who "receive operating funding from the European Commission". And they are known to be very generous with their salaries, terms and conditions - which is pertinent because Britain will have to pay the pension of all Britons employed by them.
It's not in the least amusing to know that part of the reason why the anti-terror budget may be slashed, and police numbers cut is to continue the "war on smoking". One is real - and deadly serious, the other a charade, a sham and an excuse to line the pockets of the unworthy.
Giving another £100 million to tobacco control to fritter away on meaningless studies, ludicrously expensive television adverts (in 2012 stoptober alone cost £5.7 million (10); since then it's morphed into and opportunity to keep tobacco control in the news, so more daytime slots and fewer at prime time - and they get what they want for £1.08 million in 2017 (11)) and employing thousands to do little more than be a pain in the backside to politicians, consumers, retailers and manufacturers.
Nope I'll be only too happy to see government tell Blackman to forget about his extra £100 million, indeed I'd tell the Department of Health that their existing budget for tobacco control will be halved to allow us fight a real war. People who smoke chose to do so knowing they may run a risk, something tobacco packaging has told them for decades. They don't seek help no matter how much tobacco would like to "offer" it. Victims of terror attacks are random innocents - and they have every right to expect the government to finance a first rate police and anti-terror force.
Police officers are not expensive when compared to tobacco control employees. Police officers cost £20,000 or so at the lower end of their scale, rising to about £37,000 after 7 years (12). Tobacco control has pots of people who claim to be doctors, professors and such, and many claim stacks of academic qualifications as well as bullshit after their name (like this one, with MA, Cert.Ed, Dip LIS, Hon MFPH, Hon FRSA (13)), so their average gross salaries are about 50% up on a police officer. Get rid of 1,000 tobacco controllers and employ 1,500 additional police officers by halving their current budget. The police will only cost £45 million, so what's left can go to the anti-terror unit.
And who really gives a damn if the number of tobacco cessation television and newspaper campaigns are reduced by half? Certainly not those charged with the gut-wrenching task of telling relatives their loved one's been fatally / damaged by a terrorist.
(For the record, tobacco control in Scotland costs about 10% of that for England and Wales (£20 million). I'd love to see a couple of hundred more police with far better vehicles than these electric shopping carts. For an area the size of Scotland, we only have one police helicopter (14) - and that's based in Glasgow! So tough titty if you want a rapid response in Wick).
Scottish Police £24,000 electric patrol car.