Yesterday, more than a few political journalists were wondering whether they should make the trip to Gatwick to catch a flight to the Netherlands for David Cameron's highly-anticipated speech on Europe. As it happened, most flew back without leaving the airport and reappeared in Westminster by 11am this morning for the prime minister's statement on the hostage crisis in Algeria.
Sitting in the press gallery in the House of Commons today the atmosphere was very different to that of Prime Minister's Questions. Gone was the banter and childishness which regularly takes place between Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband. Instead, the two came together in harmony as Cameron gave a statement on the ongoing crisis which has gripped the nation over the past two days.
Speaking of the crisis in Algeria, Cameron stated that this was a "brutal, savage attack" by Al-Qaeda and confirmed that he had held a further Cobra meeting earlier this morning in response to the developments. This is a "large and complex" situation, he continued, and we do not know the exact number of Britons who have been taken hostage, however, it is believed that the number is fewer than the 30 who were reported yesterday.
Although Cameron admitted that he was "disappointed" that he was not previously informed of the Algerian military operation which took place yesterday, he understood that the Algerians felt obliged to go ahead in view of the potential consequences. Relations between Britain and Algeria were "good", he stated, though he also admitted that more could be done. Cameron stressed that Britain had to stand by her allies, especially Western Africa and France, and stated that we would not be safer if we "stayed out". It seems the prime minister is not afraid of intervention, and believes it is necessary for Britain to respond willingly to international circumstances.
Cameron's key message was that Britain is "open to the world" and should help to make others safer. All governments, he stressed, should have a "united voice" on this "fluid and dangerous" situation, and he confirmed once again that Britain was "resolute" in fighting the war on terror. Cameron confirmed that the families of those involved were in touch with police support, though a "balance" in terms of information needs to be maintained in view of the delicacy and potential dangers of the situation.
Responding to the prime minister, Ed Miliband reiterated that Britain was "united in condemnation" at this "dark and difficult time." He also thanked the prime minister for keeping him updated on the situation overnight. It was refreshing to see Cameron and Miliband united in the House, leaving party politics behind as they responded to an unpredictable national crisis. This is something we should perhaps see more often.
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