Terror has attempted to strike at the heart of British democracy. How should we act and what then?
Today, in the words of Prime Minister Theresa May, ” terrorists chose to strike 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.” At roughly 2:40pm a car mounted the pavement on Westminster Bridge, striking pedestrians and Police officers, before the vehicle crashed into Portcullis House and the driver exited the vehicle and stabbed a Police officer to death, before being shot and killed inside the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. The Commons, Lords, Welsh assembly and Scottish Parliament were all suspended. Traffic ground to a halt in central London. The Underground was closed at Westminster. The systems of British democracy and Government came directly under attack and the response was swift and effective. At least 5 have been killed and 40 injured.
In terms of the short-term response, the themes are simple: respect and remembrance. The politicisation of such an attack would be crass and simply disrespectful. Let us instead think on the heroes and victims of the day. The Police officers who put themselves in danger to protect the people of London. Keith Palmer, husband, father and with 15 years service in the Met, the Police officer killed in protecting the sacred Houses of Commons from the horror of a terrorism. The paramedics who tended to the wounded whilst counter-terrorist officers swept the area. The ordinary members of the public who helped the wounded. The Parliamentarians and workers in the House who stayed calm and honoured the emergency services. Particularly, I would mention the Conservative MP and Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood, veteran of the Armed Forces and brother of a victim of the 2002 Bali bombings, who ran towards the wounded Officer Palmer and gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, sadly to no avail, but despite the warnings of Police.
In the long-term, questions must naturally be asked. The security of the public and safety of our democracy is sacrosanct and we must face the root cause of the issue. I do not believe this to be Islam in itself but merely the hatred of people manifested through the religion. Bigotry and hatred will always disguise itself. We must ensure that tolerance, unity and peace prevail. In doing so we will bring the greatest defeat to terrorism that we can.
I would like to end with the words of Brendan Cox, husband of the murdered MP Jo Cox, from Twitter.
The person who did this wants us to be fearful and divided- let’s show them that we are neither.