Monday, May 10, 2021 | Ramadan 27, 1442 H
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Year of turmoil puts Britain on edge

Rosie Scammell -

From a lawmaker’s assassination to a string of terror attacks and a devastating fire, Britain has suffered a heart-wrenching year that has put the government and society as a whole under severe strain.

Even Queen Elizabeth II has been struck by the bleak series of events which have hit her subjects in recent months, just as the country prepares for a period of uncertainty when it leaves the European Union.

“It is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood,” she said over the weekend in an unusual show of

emotion to mark her 91st birthday celebrations.

It drew comparisons to her “annus horribilis” (“horrible year”) speech a quarter of a century ago in 1992 when her children’s marriages broke down and her Windsor Castle summer residence was hit by fire.

Throughout the past year, Britons have responded with private soul-searching and public showings of solidarity, most recently

holding street parties over the weekend to mark one year since the murder of Jo Cox.

The Labour party MP was stabbed and shot by neo-Nazi sympathiser Thomas Mair in her northern England constituency on June 16 last year, in Britain’s first political assassination since 1990.

“We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us,” Cox had said in her inaugural speech to parliament a year earlier.

Those words were repeated Monday by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as he condemned an anti-Muslim terror attack by a white man who drove a van into a crowd of Muslim worshippers near Finsbury Park Mosque.

But others warn that divisions are deepening.

Cox’s killing came during a bitterly divisive campaign ahead of the EU membership referendum, in which Britain ended up voting by 52 per cent to leave the European Union.

The historic moment when Britain formally notified the EU in March of its intention to leave came days after a terrorist attack on the home of British democracy.

An attacker drove a rental car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing to death an unarmed police officer guarding parliament.

Five people were killed in the March 22 attack before Khalid Masood was shot dead by police.

Politics took no respite, with May calling a snap election for June 8.

A nation already weary of going to the polls was dragged into another battle for votes, only to see the campaign suspended when a suicide bomber attacked a crowd of music fans in Manchester.

In Britain’s worst terror attack in more than a decade, Salman Abedi killed 22 people and injured more than 100 others outside an Ariana Grande pop concert on May 22.

Politicians cautiously restarted their pleas for votes, only to be called back into crisis talks when terror struck the capital once again on June 3.

Three men drove a van through pedestrians before going on a stabbing spree in bars near London Bridge.

Both the London rampage and the Manchester bombing were claimed by the IS.

As a result, an election in which May had seemed certain to triumph ended with the premier losing her majority, leading her to seek the support of the 10 MPs from Northern Ireland’s ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party.

Britain awoke on June 14 to another catastrophe — a fire ripping through a London tower block, killing 79 people.

Less than a week after the fire, Britain’s fourth terror attack in three months hit.

Muslims were taking a break from evening prayers in Finsbury Park, north London, when a man drove a van into the crowd on Monday, injuring 11 people before being apprehended.

“We had a terrible few weeks,” Mayor Khan said. —AFP

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