H aving been travelling to the House of Commons as a newish MP on Mon 7th July 2005 when terrorists struck the tube network and killed 52 people, I felt the same sense of foreboding and fear in Westminster last week during our five hour lockdown in the Commons and after the deadly attack by jihadist thug Khalid Masood who killed four people.
“All terrorists are politely reminded that this is London, and whatever you do to us, we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you”. So read one of the signs in a London tube station shortly after the horrific events on Wednesday. Nothing sums up the resilience and defiance of the British people better than this – we will not be terrorised by those who are filled with hatred.
And we are all able to wake up this morning and carry on thanks to the selfless bravery of our police, security and emergency services. Especially the bravery of PC Keith Palmer who lost his life to keep everybody safe. We cannot begin to appreciate just how much we owe to those who protect us day in day out. Those who have no real idea of what they will face when they say goodbye to their loved ones every day. We owe them so much.
It will be a day that none of us forget and we will always remember where we were. I was eating lunch in in my office in Portcullis House when the division bell rang indicating that there would be a vote. As always MPs all began filing through to the Division Lobbies. I had just voted and was in the Chamber when the Deputy Speaker announced that Parliament had been suspended. It wasn’t too long before the MPs in the chamber had noticed that all of the doors had been shut and before too long, we were told that there had been a serious incident and we had to stay put. Other than what we could see on our phones through social media, we didn’t really have much information on the horrors that were unfolding outside. We stayed in what felt like a vacuum for almost five hours, before returning to our offices to collect our belongings. It was only then that we were able to physically see through the darkness the devastation that this lone man had created.
This attack struck at the heart of our capital city, where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech. Those values are ingrained into Westminster, home to the one of the world’s oldest Parliaments, where we also celebrate and respect the rule of law and our human rights. Our liberties command the admiration and respect of free people everywhere in the world. This will not change. As the Prime Minister said last week, any attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror is doomed to failure.
We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror, and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.
Our sense of pragmatism, quiet resolve and stoicism has seen us weather much worse than this and so we will again.