Some thoughts on the Manchester tragedy

Like many people, I woke up to hear the news of the awful tragedy in Manchester.

I was first alerted to the news by notifications on facebook telling me that some of my friends were OK. Which led to me then turning on the TV news and discovering what had happened at 10.35pm yesterday.

I took my daughter to school this morning feeling rather fortunate to be able to do this, when other parents were still agonising about where their own children were.

It was a terrible shock, and made all the more so when I discovered a friend has been trying to make contact with one of his own friends who was at the concert last night - but has so far had no success.

There are few words I can use to express my own feelings about the tragedy. It is a tragic and unnecessary waste of life, and whatever we discover in time about the motivations of the perpetrator there can be no excusing the deliberate targeting of a concert, where most of the spectators were innocent young people.

As far as I am aware, this is the highest death toll from a terrorist-related attack in mainland Britain outside of London. It is tragic that it happened in Manchester - a city I know well and in which I am currently a parliamentary candidate (Bury South). Why should this wonderfully multicultural city be the victim of such a mindless and pointless atrocity?

It is dreadful that, already, the predictable anti-Islamic and even anti-Semitic voices have reared their ugly heads, seeking to capitalise on a human tragedy of immense proportions. While the country stands in unity, and in grief, with the people of Manchester so too must we stand together against the intolerance that feeds off such a disaster and fuels division.

Today, for the second time in a year, all political activity has been suspended - and rightly so. I hope we can all agree that this is not a time for party politics or making political statements.

And when the political discourse begins in earnest again, I hope that rather than propagate the kinds of easy answers that only create division, we instead reflect (as a society) on how we can produce a more peaceful and more tolerant world.

I don't wish to say much more, other than to express my deep condolences to all those who are grieving today. I'll leave the final word to fellow blogger Jennie Rigg, who made this observation:

"The arsehole who blew himself up with an IED full of nuts and bolts at a concert full of little girls was one man.

"The people who immediately took to the streets with bottles of water and cups of tea? The people who opened their homes to strangers for a sit down or a phone charger or a phone? The taxi drivers who offered free rides home when the trains were cancelled, the hotels who offered free rooms and respite and drinks to those affected, and the absolute heroes of the emergency services? Those people are legion. Those people are the ones who we need to talk about. Those people are the peak of humanity.

"Love, not hate. Helping, not hurting."