Blair leaves Gleneagles

7 July 2005

The rotor blades on Tony Blair's helicopter are turning as the British prime minister prepares to leave the G8 summit to return to London. Shortly after noon, Blair issued a statement announcing he would leave the summit in Gleneagles and head to the capital to meet security officials and ministers implementing the state's contingency plan for a terrorist attack. He said meetings at the summit would continue, styling that determination as a refusal to bow to terrorists.

An hour later, Blair's seven counterparts in the G8 assembled on the podium here, alongside the five invitee leaders from the developing world. Blair read a collective statement (shortly to be posted on the Downing Street website). Invoking the rhetoric of the "war on terror", the leaders vowed that they will "not allow violence to change our societies and values ... We shall prevail, they shall not."

Speaking on the lawn of the Gleneagles hotel, US President George W Bush said the "contrast could not be clearer" between the G8 and "people who kill innocent people". The leaders here seem intent to emphasize the good they believe the G8 will do for the world's poor. There is little doubt, though, that the symbolism of the attacks' concurrence with the summit of the world's richest leaders matches that of the choice of the World Trade Centre as the target for the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Meetings between delegates and leaders will continue. That perseverance is matched by the rhetoric we have heard so far, which has the summit as an image of the "ideology of hope" that the leaders sat they will defend.

Police sources say there has been no change to security arrangements inside the hotel. Police teams are patrolling the hotel, and numerous helicopters are circling overhead. Special tactical units are on standby. There seem to be no plans to deploy seconded forces back to London. Over 2,000 of the Met's 35,000-strong force are in Scotland this week to secure the summit.

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