Welcome to the latest edition of This Week on Twitter for Westminster HUB where we take a look at the week’s biggest political news and controversies through the eyes of Twitter. The week began with Theresa May facing a grilling from Andrew Neil on the BBC and a blow to Conservative campaigning from a policy on social care labelled the ‘Dementia tax’ but this was all quickly overshadowed by a horrifying event in Manchester on Monday night.
An Ariana Grande concert on Monday night at the Manchester Arena was rocked by a ‘lone wolf’ suicide bomber who detonated a device as thousands of young people and children were exiting the concert. The explosion, which killed 22 people, was the most deadly terrorist attack on British soil since the 7/7 bombings in London twelve years ago. Naturally social media was quick to react during the event with news and support as well as the place for thousands of tributes following the attack.
Details of the incident were slow to emerge on Monday night as reports emerged of a loud explosion heard from the area of Manchester Arena. It was unclear just what had happened or how serious the incident was as Greater Manchester police tweeted simply that they were attending to an incident.
However it soon became clear just how serious the incident was as other reports came out and pictures and video emerged. It was quickly reported that the North West Counter Terrorism Unit was treating the event as a terrorist attack which as the night unfolded became more and more evident.
Reporters at the scene were reporting helicopters flying overhead and “hundreds” of police officers heading towards the scene of the attack. There were also reports of armoured trucks and bomb disposal units also in the area as the emergency services responded heroically and quickly to the event.
The community in Manchester also responded with great kindness and empathy as the hashtag Room for Manchester began trending on Twitter. Hundreds of users from in and around Manchester posted offers of help, beds, drinks or merely warmth and company to those caught up in the attack, showing togetherness in the face of an attack focused on causing division.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Ariana Grande, the popular American pop singer who thousands had looked forward to seeing at the concert tweeted her sadness. The singer apologised and expressed her deep sorrow at what had happened in the aftermath of her concert, she later understandably suspended the rest of her European tour dates showing the toll the event had taken on her.
Andy Burnham, only in his second week of his time as Manchester mayor, was quick to express his condolences and sorrow at what had happened. He made a speech in which he declared the night as one of the Manchester’s darkest and the morning after, the most difficult of dawns.
The attack of course took place midway through an election campaign but Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and other political parties agreed to a suspension of all general election campaigning in light of what had happened. The Scottish National Party was due to launch their election manifesto on Tuesday but delayed the event and declared that their thoughts were with Manchester instead.
Other prominent politicians also shared their thoughts on their social media accounts. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, tweeted that London stood with Manchester and that thoughts were with anyone killed or injured along with the emergency services that attended to the wounded. The American President, Donald Trump, also gave a statement on the attack refusing to label the terrorist a monster instead calling him a loser. While former president, Barack Obama, tweeted to say Americans would always stand shoulder to shoulder with people of the UK.
Some of Manchester’s most well known names also weighed in with their thoughts and condolences to all those involved. Liam Gallagher of one of Manchester’s most famous bands, Oasis, tweeted that he was in total shock and devastation about what had happened. Manchester United also used their social media account to tweet their shock at the news which was echoed by rivals Manchester City.
There were also tweets from well-known faces on social media such as Owen Jones and David Schneider who both expressed the need to show love and solidarity and not give in to what the terrorists would want. Owen Jones expressed his views on how strong and warm and community minded Manchester is, telling his followers that Manchester would overcome this sadness while David Schneider encouraged people to celebrate the good in everyone.
Brendan Cox, husband of the late Labour MP Jo Cox who was murdered in another act of terrorism less than 12 months ago, also took to Twitter to express his thoughts. He sent his thoughts to the families who would be dealing with the devastation and loss following the event and lamented the pain and pointlessness of the act.
The general election campaigning is suspended for Wednesday at least, it is unclear how long it will remain suspended but eventually it will restart, undoubtedly tinged with sadness in the light of this horrific event. In the next fortnight there will be TV debates with all the main political leaders as the campaign heads towards its final days and weeks before Britain goes to the polls on June 8th.
Follow Backbench and Westminster Hub on Twitter for the latest political news and opinions. The Week on Twitter will be back with a roundup of the week’s biggest political headlines soon. To follow any of our editors on Twitter follow this link for all the information you’ll need.