Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Newspaper column 29 March 2017 - The attack on Westminster

The events of last Wednesday are likely to leave a lasting impression on us all and particularly anyone caught up in them.

The attack on Westminster that caused the death of four people, plus the terrorist, as well as injuring at least 40 others is the first direct attack on Parliament for almost 40 years and the most serious terrorist attack on the country since the 7/7 bombs of 2005.

As I reflect on the events of a week ago, I feel deep gratitude to our security and emergency services and especially to PC Keith Palmer. We often say that this country has the best security services in the world. It is times like these when they prove it. The professional way that they went about their jobs, treating the injured, protecting people and dealing with the threat was a credit to all involved. This was clearly personified in the actions of PC Keith Palmer. He ran towards the danger while others fled. He put his life on the line and paid the ultimate price to defend those of us who work in Parliament. I will be forever grateful for his actions that day.

As despicable and dreadful as it is for our security services to be attacked in this way, the indiscriminate attack on members of the public on Westminster Bridge is another thing altogether. Those of us who choose to work in Parliament accept that there is an increased level of risk in working there. The fact that we are surrounded by high levels of security every day is a constant reminder that Parliament is a likely target for those who wish to attack our democracy and values. But I cannot in any way imagine what goes on in someone’s mind who deliberately drives along a crowded pavement, full of tourists, students and innocent by-standers in order to kill and maim. It merely reminds us that we are facing a threat from people who have a totally warped view of our world and have no regard for anyone who does not agree with and embrace their beliefs.

We are grateful that the events of last Wednesday are still rare occurrences in our country. That is down to the incredible work of our intelligence and security services who have prevented many attacks in recent years.

It reminds me that there are parts of our world who face such threats regularly, in some cases almost daily. The fact that it still shocks and shakes us is a reminder of the relative peace and security we enjoy in this country.

Our nation has a proud history of standing up to terror. We have never given in. We have stood for the values of freedom, democracy and tolerance in the face of the most extreme opposition. And this is what we must continue to do.

As the Prime Minister said last week, the best thing we can do, in the light of an attack like this, is carry on with our day to day lives. We cannot allow the fear that terrorists seek to create to cause us to cower or compromise. That is why I made sure I was there when Parliament sat on Thursday morning. Our greatest act of defiance will be in continuing as before. We know that the values we stand for and live by are not only right, they are also the best way to live. Love and freedom will always win over hate and fear.