Monday, September 18, 2006

'We failed victims of 7 July' admits Jowell

I wonder why she chose The Telegraph as the place to make this admission? I am heartened but not surprised by her comments in the interview published today. I have never been sure whether to trust her during the two meetings I have had with her. The first was with Ms Jowell alone, the second with old bull dog Reid.

She has a slightly mumsey air about her. She looks you directly in the eye, remembers your name and frowns pitifully as she listens intently to your recollections of pain and her department’s failings. She seems like a decent human being and, rarely for a politician, her heart is very much in evidence. She has told us many times how affected she has been by her meetings with us and the stories she has heard, in this for once I believe her. I have often wondered, however, how genuine she is. It is clear why she was the minister charged with coordinating the support for those affected by the bombings last year. She is the right person for the job, a job in which she excels. There is no argument, no defence whilst in discussion with her. She listens intently, nods sympathetically, she apologises fluently and is even brave enough to admit mistakes. All this in stark contrast to her colleague from the Home Office.

This aside she has constantly failed us. Our first communication from her was dated 22 March 2006, it was sent second class and arrived the day after I and other survivors, had given evidence to the London Assembly about the failings of communication both on and since the 7 July. The irony of this timing was not lost on us.

She then wrote again in a letter dated only May 2006. She was writing, she said, on behalf of John Reid (why couldn’t he write himself? Is she his PA?) to let us know that the government would ‘publish an Official Account of the events leading up to 7 July very shortly’. By the time we received this letter the ‘narrative’ had already been made public and the media was buzzing with it.

We first met with her on 16 May. She didn’t answer many questions directly and promised to issue us with meeting notes. She said these would address any issues she had not been able to deal with at the meeting. She sent these notes on 20 July (I would lose my job if I issued records of meetings over 2 months after they took place!) 5 days before we were due to meet with her and John Reid. The notes were scantily written and told us nothing new.

At the meeting on 25 July we bantered with the Home Secretary , he fought back and argued his corner like a Pit Bull. We were, however promised, that they would always notify us is something they knew to be false was published in the press about the bombings, and would also give us warning before they published any documents. Today I read in The Telegraph that the ‘Lessons learnt’ report is to be published next week. I look forward to a letter from Tessa the day after.