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The Finsbury mosque attack deepens Britain's darkness – but light shines through

We should focus on the immense grace and compassion that have come out of this past year.

It's painful to remember that, a year and three days ago, there hadn't been a terrorist attack in Britain since 2013. Now we wake up to a suspected fifth: a van mowing down worshippers leaving Finsbury Park mosque in the early hours of Monday morning, as people were leaving the Iftar feast – the breaking of the fast of Ramadan that occurs after dusk. 

There have been multiple casualties, and the driver has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

The seemingly relentless nature of the attacks – the assassination of Jo Cox by a white supremacist, the Westminster attacks, the Manchester bombing, and the attack on Borough Market by jihadists, now this attack on London's Muslim community – only adds to the general feeling of unease and terror.

It's easy to feel as if the United Kingdom is becoming unrelentingly worse, particularly when the fire at Grenfell Tower is added to the mix.

But we should focus on the immense grace and compassion that have come out of this past year, too. The Jo Cox Foundation's Great Get Together. Ariana Grande returning to Manchester just days after the attack at her concert to raise money for the victims. Andy Burnham's moral leadership just days after taking office. Sadiq Khan's dignity under fire from Donald Trump. The small boy who gave the pocket money he had saved to the Grenfell fire relief effort.

It's been a year of considerable darkness but one in which light has shone through, too.

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

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame