On the morning of 12th October 1984 an IRA bomb detonated in the Grand Hotel, Brighton that housed many delegates attending the Tory Party’s annual conference. The bomb operated via a pre-set timer. It killed five Tories. Several Tories were injured including Norman Tebbit.
The Brighton Bomb was a significant event in The Irish War. It demonstrated that the IRA was able to hit the government directly but of greater significance was the reaction from the British public: Many cheered who would not normally be supportive of the IRA’s actions, aims and politics. The broadcast clip of Tebbit, in pajama bottoms and a vest, being carried from the hotel’s wreckage on a stretcher was an image that was not distressing to many viewers of early morning TV news bulletins.
The key consequence of The Brighton Bomb was that the reaction to it described the division in Britain between those who supported the Tories and those who hated the Tories. The hatred of the Tories was so intense that a bomb did not lead to universal condemnation. However, opposition politicians, led by hapless Neil Kinnock, fell into line with scripted criticism and “outrage.” An opportunity to focus on and make use of the divisions in Britain was dodged by Kinnock; cowardice was the main facet of his political career.
Today, Tory Northern Ireland Minister Karen Bradley spouted deliberate nonsense in the House of Commons, some of which she retracted later for legal reasons, where she differentiated between deaths caused by the two sides in The Irish War.
“Over 90% of the killings during the Troubles were at the hands of terrorists, every single one of those was a crime. The fewer than 10% that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes. They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”
Bradley’s motivation for her reprehensible comments was entirely political. Every Tory MP takes every opportunity to create enemies to distract the public even if that requires reaching back into history to point at the “enemy.” A current particular reason for Bradley’s comments is that parliamentary votes from the DUP are needed by the Tories in order to avoid losing a vote of no confidence.
(After a chat with a legal advisor, Bradley “clarified” her comments. She was forced to do so because of outstanding criminal cases against former British soldiers who operated in Ireland.)
Bradley’s recklessness is matched by her venality.
The cheers that greeted The Brighton Bomb, from people who were definitely not supporters of the IRA, showed the hatred that existed in the 1980s for the Tories. The 2019 Tories are worse.
Related blog: Who takes the blame for Brighton bomb?