In today’s article, Chloe Hill writes about Zac Goldsmith’s use of the 7/7 bus in his Daily Mail article. Chloe is originally from London, but has spent the last six years in Scotland, graduating from the University of St Andrews in 2013. After a stint as Student Association President she worked for a Labour MP through the Scottish Referendum and 2015 elections, and has recently moved back to capital to work as a Parliamentary Assistant to a London Labour MP. Her spare time is currently take up with exploring North London and unashamedly listening to Craig David.
This photo of the bus, blown up on 7th July 2005, represents to me the worst day for London in generations. I remember the day vividly; I was on the tube trying to get in to central London for my year 10 work experience. I got as far as Vauxhall before every station got closed, and I found myself walking along the Southbank, receiving a panicked phone call from my mum, and then walking all the way home with the eerie sight of empty buses driving past.
More than that though, what I remember is watching and reading about the endless individual stories of kindness and help given, not just by the emergency services but by so many Londoners. That quote “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’”, has ever felt so true. And the one I will never forget is the driver of that bus, who did everything he could to help his passengers and then disappeared – it turned out he had walked miles in his shock and horror before being found and helped himself.
And while 7/7 was the worst day for London, I believe 8/7 was the best, when Londoners got back on the tube, and back on the buses, in defiance of the terrorists. We reclaimed our public transport and showed we would not be intimidated. The trauma of 7/7 and defiance of 8/7 created a sense of solidarity between people who were, in that moment, all just Londoners. North or South, white or brown, rich or poor, we were reminded of our commonalities in that time of vulnerability (and learnt, briefly, to talk to each other on the tube!).
Using this photo as a campaign technique (or allowing the Daily Mail to do so on your behalf) to try and associate Sadiq with that terrible day is not only a racist and despicably low form of election campaigning, it completely misunderstands what that photo represents, and it completely misunderstands London. It could only have come from a candidate that, as has been made clear during this campaign, never uses public transport and couldn’t possibly understand the solidarity felt by each of us as we got back on the tube for the morning commute on 8/7. In comparison, Sadiq Khan, then my newly elected MP, was quick to condemn the bombing and eloquent in his plan for how extremism needed to be tackled (in fact, he won the Spectators newcomer of the year award for his efforts), and has remained endlessly committed to tackling the causes of extremism, and supporting London in all it’s glorious diversity.
On May 5th we vote for a new Mayor. 11 years ago London didn’t bow to fear and threats, and I am confident it won’t on Thursday.