In between periodic welfare checks on nearly four dozen students living in the greater London area following Saturday night’s terror attacks, Cayman Islands London Office Director Eric Bush was trying to keep tabs on the snap election scheduled for Thursday in the U.K. – the results of which could have serious consequences for Cayman.
It’s been that kind of year for the overseas office.
“The U.K. has been anything but stable over the last 11 months,” Mr. Bush said Monday. “It’s a been a wild ride. I’m just trying to traverse through it.”
Mr. Bush said so far there have been no reports of the 45 students living in the greater London metropolitan area having been injured or directly affected by Saturday’s attacks. Seven people died and at least another four dozen were injured when a van rammed into pedestrians along London bridge.
U.K. Met police said three men jumped from the van and carried out stabbing attacks in the nearby Borough Market before they were shot dead by police.
Mr. Bush said he had been in Borough Market earlier on Saturday with his wife, children and a family friend.
Show of respect
Flags were flying at half-staff Monday at all Cayman government buildings out of respect for the victims of the attacks – the third by terrorists in the U.K. in the past three months. In March, a man drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. Last month a suicide bomber targeted an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. More than 30 people were killed in the three attacks.
“Since we had the attack on Westminster, we’ve put safety protocols in place with the staff. They’re all to report in on WhatsApp as soon as possible,” Mr. Bush said. “We’ve also put voluntary protocols in place with the students [in the London area]. Prior to that, we hadn’t thought about it.”
Mr. Bush said he has spoken to the three other London office staffers in the wake of the attacks, as well as the five tourism employees and lone Maritime Authority employee stationed in the area. He said they are dealing with it as best as can be expected.
The tougher role, when terrorist attacks or other incidents occur, is that of “dad,” Mr. Bush said.
“I had to talk to my children about it and make sure they still feel safe …. Sophie is 8 now, Alex is 6,” he said. “Sophie’s old enough to read and understand what’s going on.”
The terror attacks have taken an emotional toll on Caymanian students in the U.K. Lloyd Barker, who lives about one-third of a mile from the Manchester Arena, said the day after the attack there, “You can just see the fear, really. People are continuously looking behind them. It definitely puts me on alert because these incidents recently in London [the stabbing attack outside Parliament] and Manchester … It just makes you wonder what’s next.
“It’s not easy just to go out on the streets and think it’s all good. I’m going to stay vigilant but I can only do so much.”
Challenging political scene
If one can set aside the devastating impact of the three recent terrorist attacks, the U.K. political scene has been challenging for the London office in a different way.
One week before Mr. Bush took over the London Office director’s position, the June 23, 2016 Brexit vote occurred. No one was expecting the result – that the U.K. would pull out of the European Union – and the potential effects on the Cayman Islands are still unknown.
In April, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s called for snap elections, scheduled for Thursday.
“I’m trying to create relationships politically, socially and commercially, and when you have [an early election], they’re just so inwardly focused,” Mr. Bush said. “We had formed the All-Party Parliamentary Group [with British lawmakers who support Cayman and the overseas territories] and we’re growing that membership, and then that was dissolved and they’re in full campaign mode.”
“Since being here, nothing has gone to plan,” he said.