London Bridge terror attack
Armed police continue to guard the cordon around around Borough Market in London on Monday morning, 5 June 2017Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

We need action, not words. We need to get a grip. We need to confront the problem. We've been giving in for too long.

Such was the mood on Sunday as the reality of a third Islamist attack in as many months sank in. These sentiments dominated both broadcast and social media, and were voiced especially belligerently in the United States. But let's stop and ponder them for a moment.

What precisely do people mean when they say we need to confront the problem? That we are running away from it? That we are capitulating? Let's consider what happened on Saturday night.

It took just eight minutes from the first emergency call for all three murderers to be shot dead. That strikes me as "action not words". In those eight minutes, there were countless acts of bravery from ordinary Londoners: some rushed to assist the wounded instead of fleeing the scene; some threw glasses, chairs and even a bread crate at the assailants; a cabbie tried to ram them with his taxi; an unarmed police officer wrestled with them bare-handed. Does that sound like giving in?

And yet the narrative is so deeply entrenched now that almost nothing much can shake it. When people say "get a grip" or "face up to the problem" they rarely specify how we are presently failing to do so. This morning, the Met police revealed that it had foiled 18 attacks since 2013. We are infiltrating and dismantling the Islamist cells. We are also, for what it's worth, bombing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria night after night – to the point where the total defeat of that diabolical outfit is not far off.

According to a BBC study of official reports, we have managed to vaporise nearly a hundred British jihadis fighting with Daesh – and who knows how many more undocumented kills there have been. Hundreds more have been detained. Yet any commentator who says "Stop pussyfooting around!" or "You can't beat Islamists with candles and concerts!" is guaranteed an appreciative audience.

Even – perhaps especially – if he is the President of the United States. In the aftermath of the atrocity, Donald Trump decided to tweet: "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is "no reason to be alarmed!" Actually, the Mayor of London was urging people not to be alarmed by the sight of "more armed officers on our streets". But the deliberate distortion of his words is secondary here.

We naturally brood more on jihadi drivers than on the drunk or incompetent drivers who are a hundred times likelier to hit us.

The larger point, as Donald Trump surely ought to know, is that the purpose of terrorism is to spread alarm. That's why we call it terrorism. Terrorists aim to generate anxiety out of proportion to their deeds by making those deeds as grisly and dramatic as they can.

Most of us can remember where we were when we heard about the two jihadi vehicle attacks in London. For obvious reasons, those barbarities filled our news screens and our imaginations far more than other car deaths. The fact that as many people typically die on the roads in Britain every day weighs little with us. Those traffic fatalities were as much the centre of their own universe as the people who died on the two bridges; but we naturally brood more on jihadi drivers than on the drunk or incompetent drivers who are a hundred times likelier to hit us.

In the circumstances, it is right for politicians to radiate reassurance, as Theresa May and Sadiq Khan have both done. Perhaps Donald Trump and his vocal online cheerleaders, simply don't get British stoicism. Still, it's an odd sight – all these anti-Islamist hard men, who pride themselves on their disdain for political correctness, are now urging us to panic under fire. That's just not how we do things.


Daniel Hannan has been Conservative MEP for the South East of England since 1999, and is Secretary-General of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. Follow : @danieljhannan