Liverpool terror attack showed us the best – and worst – of Britain

SARAH VINE: The horror of Al Swealmeen’s terror attack aimed at Liverpool maternity hospital showed us the best – and worst – of Britain

There is something about the case of Emad Al Swealmeen, the Syrian asylum seeker who tried — and mercifully failed — to blow up Liverpool Women’s Hospital that speaks of the best and worst of Britain.

First, the best. The incredible generosity of the Liverpudlian couple, Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott, who hosted him in their home when he was destitute.

The community that, in 2015, welcomed him into their midst at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, where he eventually converted to Christianity in 2017.

The taxi driver, David Perry, who realised something wasn’t quite right about the behaviour of his passenger, and who warned others to stay away even as he himself was reeling from the blast.

And, last but not least, the British taxpayer, whose largesse meant Al Swealmeen was living in relative comfort at a hostel.

From start to finish, a tale of trust, generosity and faith in a stranger who had sought refuge. This open-minded, open-hearted community treated him with kindness and respect.

There is something about the case of Emad Al Swealmeen, the Syrian asylum seeker who tried — and mercifully failed — to blow up Liverpool Women’s Hospital that speaks of the best and worst of Britain

There are people like the Hitchcotts the length and breadth of this country: good people whose actions are not guided by prejudice or fear, but simply by a desire to help.

They’re not bleeding-heart liberals, or virtue-signalling attention seekers. Just ordinary people trying to do a little bit of good.

Sadly, they are also proof of this old cynic’s favourite adage: no good deed goes unpunished.

And so to the worst. Al Swealmeen. We don’t yet know enough to truly fathom his motives or his intentions. As things stand he has not been linked to any terror organisation or group.

It may be that ultimately he was simply a deeply unstable individual who, frustrated with the system and angry that his attempts to claim asylum had been rejected, lost his mind and decided to exact some kind of twisted revenge.

The taxi driver, David Perry, who realised something wasn’t quite right about the behaviour of his passenger, and who warned others to stay away even as he himself was reeling from the blast

There were certainly a few red flags along the way, not least his arrest for carrying a knife in 2014, and a notable incident later on, while living with the Hitchcotts, when he became very agitated at the thought that they might have opened his mail.

Mr Hitchcott said: ‘I told him we wouldn’t dream of it. He had received a small package, he told me it was for a friend . . . makes me wonder about it now.’

It makes us all wonder. And perhaps we will never know the truth. But let’s not forget, he intended to kill and maim. Last night, there were suspicions he built a bomb using the same highly explosive material favoured by the 7/7 bombers who targeted London in 2005.

Britain has always behaved generously towards those who take refuge on our islands. We are a humanitarian country and it is for that reason so many flock to these shores: it’s not just that our Government treats refugees so generously, it’s also that our communities are, compared to countries such as Italy and France, so overwhelmingly welcoming.

But people like Al Swealmeen test us. They undermine and threaten to destroy our fundamental values, and make us question the Christian principles that underpin our society. We must not let them.

We must be alert to the risks. Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. And next time we might not be so lucky.

Last night, there were suspicions he built a bomb using the same highly explosive material favoured by the 7/7 bombers who targeted London in 2005

 House Of Gucci, the movie starring Lady Gaga, has had so much hype and she’s flashed her knickers for the cameras so many times I might as well have seen it already. As to her Italian accent, well, as a fluent Italian speaker I’d say it is as authentic as Dick Van Dyke’s cockney in Mary Poppins.

Adele rose to global stardom as a funny, messy English girl with a big heart and an even bigger talent, her honesty and self-deprecating humour a huge part of her immense charm.

But the Barbified, LA version of Adele who sat down with Oprah this week to gush platitudes and therapy-speak is a whole different cup of tea.

Her charm and authenticity, the things that made her so likeable, have all but evaporated. Now she’s just another self-obsessed Hollywood caricature, about as authentic and loveable as those acrylic-tipped talons of hers.

But the Barbified, LA version of Adele who sat down with Oprah this week to gush platitudes and therapy-speak is a whole different cup of tea

 I’m sure we are all supposed to be horrified at the notion that Stanley Johnson, 81, might have smacked on the bum MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Commission, in 2003. But quite honestly, I couldn’t care less. It was almost 20 years ago, and in any case, there are far worse things to worry about in terms of assaults on women than a fruity old goat like Johnson.

Burglary is a nasty crime which has a seriously detrimental effect on the victims, as Tamara Ecclestone’s impact statement this week at the trial of a gang of thieves who stole from her and others in London shows.

The family were not at home at the time (on holiday in Lapland, as it happens), and the bandits’ job was made easier by the fact that Ecclestone’s mansion in Kensington is so vast staff didn’t even notice them breaking in through the garden. ‘It’s been awful. I’m so scared I will not leave my daughter alone in the house at night,’ she told the court. She added that she is now ‘obsessing over security’ with gates covered in barbed wire.

I’m not surprised. That said, perhaps if she didn’t endlessly flaunt her lavish lifestyle to her half a million followers on Instagram . . .

Burglary is a nasty crime which has a seriously detrimental effect on the victims, as Tamara Ecclestone’s impact statement this week at the trial of a gang of thieves who stole from her and others in London shows

 I never thought I’d say this, but it can’t be much fun being a young person these days. Not only are students facing having to pay back their loans earlier than expected (at the moment graduates start paying only when they earn £27,295 a year — but that threshold could fall as low as £22,000 under new Government plans to raise an extra £2.5 billion a year), they’re also paying far more in living costs. Rents in the UK have gone up 8.7 per cent since last year. The average cost of renting is now a staggering £1,059 a month. At that rate, most 20-year-olds will be my age before they even have a hope of getting on the property ladder. Poor sods.

Rayner on her parade

What do Angela Rayner and the Duchess of Sussex have in common? They both seemed to think that Remembrance Day was primarily about them.

That is the only possible explanation for why the former showed up at the Cenotaph in a red coat, stripper heels and a miniskirt, her rose ankle tattoo showing through her tights; and the latter chose to dress like Lady Gaga for a veterans’ gala in New York.

Even by the woeful standards of the modern age, such narcissism is off the scale.

What do Angela Rayner and the Duchess of Sussex have in common? They both seemed to think that Remembrance Day was primarily about them.

It’s not what I would call home care

My washing machine, which I purchased in March, suddenly stopped working last week. So I called British Gas’s HomeCare service (strapline: ‘Here to solve’ — such comedians!) and booked an engineer.

On the afternoon of the visit, they called to say the engineer had ‘a childcare issue’ (I must remember that one the next time I can’t be bothered to write my column). The appointment was rebooked for the following week, and I spent all day at home (appointment time 8am-6pm, of course) waiting for the guy to show. Which he duly did. He took one look at it and pronounced himself unable to assist me.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t fix it, it was that he wouldn’t, since the machine was less than a year old. Apparently it’s British Gas ‘policy’ that engineers aren’t allowed to touch anything still under warranty. He told me to contact the makers direct.

Needless to say I have been trying — and failing — to get a response from the manufacturers (Hisense, since you ask) and am currently wading through snowdrifts of unwashed laundry which, when you have a teenage boy in the house, is not exactly pleasant.

Questions: why is no one able to do their job properly any more; why does everything manufactured after circa 1968 never work? And, most important of all, why does anyone pay British Gas for its pointless service?

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