The truth about those cuts, part 79

The best letter I’ve read in a long time . . .

From the Guardian's letters page today:

Let me just make sure I've got this right. First of all, a bunch of bankers lose unimaginable amounts of our money by making bets on a bunch of dodgy mortgages. Eventually the banks realise the bets are based on worthless assets, and that technically they are bankrupt.

The government bails them out with billions of pounds, transferring the debt to the public sector. The bankers, full of gratitude, pay themselves multimillion-pound bonuses which they invest in such a way as to pay as little tax as possible.

We express our anger by voting out the government and replacing it with a new one, which promptly blames the debt on the profligate spending of its predecessor, and tells us that the only solution is to cut public services. Civil servants lose their jobs, unemployment rises, libraries are closed, support services for the very poor, the dispossessed and the desperate disappear. Those who caused this mess in the first place get away with it, and are probably already planning the next disaster.

Are we really that gullible?

Matt Nicholson

Bristol

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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What the "critical" UK terrorist threat level means

The security services believe that Salman Abedi, was not a lone operator but part of a wider cell.

Following the Manchester bombing, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (an inter-agency organisation comprised of 16 different agencies) has raised the UK's threat level from "Severe" to "Critical", the highest possible level.

What does that mean? It doesn't mean, as per some reports, that an attack is believed to be or is definitely imminent, but that one could be imminent.

It suggests that the security services believe that Salman Abedi, was not a lone operator but part of a wider cell that is still at large and may be planning further attacks. As the BBC's Dominic Casciani explains, one reason why attacks of this sort are rare is that they are hard to do without help, which can raise suspicions among counter-terrorism officials or bring would-be perpetrators into contact with people who are already being monitored by security services.

That, as the Times reports, Abedi recently returned from Libya suggests his was an attack that was either "enabled" - that is, he was provided with training and possibly material by international jihadist groups  - or "directed", as opposed to the activities of lone attackers, which are "inspired" by other attacks but not connected to a wider plot.

The hope is that, as with the elevated threat level in 2006 and 2007, it will last only a few days while Abedi's associates are located by the security services, as will the presence of the armed forces in lieu of armed police at selected locations like Parliament, cultural institutions and the like, designed to free up specialist police capacity.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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