'THIS IS not the time for politics. We must show our unity against the terrorists, regardless of class or party.' So proclaimed all the mainstream politicians in Spain and Britain after last week's bombings. But the governments supporting last year's war did not lose one minute in trying to squeeze the political advantage for themselves.
Spain's ruling Popular Party immediately claimed the bombs were the work of the Basque organisation ETA. This, it hoped, would make everyone identify with its anti-Basque Spanish nationalism and vote PP in Sunday's elections. 'There is not the slightest doubt that ETA is responsible,' declared the Spanish interior minister.
Yet not only did the bombing have nothing to do with ETA, those killed by it were from a poor suburb whose inhabitants have suffered from government policies. New Labour here was just as quick to exploit the tragedy. It reorganised the business at its spring conference to use it as a platform to justify last year's war.
Blair switched from emphasising domestic issues to extolling a 'war against terrorism' that has killed 15,000 people in Iraq in ways just as horrible as the killing of the 200 people in Madrid.
And home secretary David Blunkett attacked those who object to laws that take away civil liberties and harass Muslims who have no connection with Al Qaida. In the streets of Madrid many people were, however, recognising a real link-between the horror of the war against Iraq and the horror in their own city. Antonio Rojo, a mourner at the funeral of one of the victims, insisted, 'This is the fault of Bush and Blair. It is because of our involvement in Iraq. Aznar is Bush's shoeshine boy.'