It was a surreal moment when I received word about the atrocities committed in Westminster yesterday. Like most days when a terrorist attack occurs, it was relatively ordinary. PMQs had occurred as normal and I was sat in my office in a leafy part of rural Cheshire writing posts for my blog summarising the parliamentary business of the day so far. It was at about 14:50 my mother politely knocked on the door and requested I come downstairs immediately as something urgent was unfolding. As I took the seemingly long walk downstairs I saw the 'Breaking' BBC News banner stating 'PARLIAMENT SHOOTING' or something similar. It was harrowing. I sat and watched the screen, transfixed. Granted, I was far from the event and safe in the north west of England, but I have family that live in London and near The City especially. Fortunately, they were okay, but not everyone was so lucky.
Perhaps most harrowing is the account of PC Keith Palmer, an unarmed police officer stabbed by the assailant as he was doing his duty protecting the Palace of Westminster. Palmer stayed as the situation unfolded and bravely told people to get away. It is unfortunate that he had to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but he is no doubt a hero and as his family and the country mourns his death they can be relieved to know he was brave, courageous and valiant and will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come.
As the identities of the other three victims come to light, it hits us hard how these people are not much different from you and I. I saw reports on Facebook this morning that one of the victims was a teacher going to pick up her children from school, though obviously I cannot verify this story and I don't want to do a Channel 4 and jump the gun. Either way, these people were in Westminster going about their daily business and expected to arrive home the following evening. One thing is certain though, police forces across the country are working tirelessly to protect us and London and the country are indebted to our brilliant emergency services for handling the situation professionally, appropriately and efficiently whilst considering the emotional sensitivities it entailed. Yesterday the country, and the world came together. Support from the US, Germany and Australia was most poignant, with France darkening the Eiffel Tower to mourn those lost in the attacks. Tributes were, of course, held in the UK this morning with a union flag flying at half-mast over the Palace of Westminster.
It was also interesting to watch the breakfast news shows. Both BBC News and Sky News were close to the location, and close to each other. I could see the BBC News Breakfast team from the Sky News breakfast show! Seeing both broadcasters out on the streets of Westminster was a powerful message. Britain, and London especially, will carry on as usual today and we will not let terrorism intimidate us.
Now would be a good time to address the elephant in the room that is the assailant. Yes, it seems likely he was influenced by radical Islam and as I am writing this post Met Police and West Midlands Police are conducted raids at properties in Birmingham allegedly linked to the suspect. However, this doesn't mean we should seek vengeance from the British Muslim community. It saddens me to say that I have seen some unsavory comments and we should not discriminate against our fellow Muslim citizens on the basis of one radicalised individual. We should come together as British citizens and mourn those lost, whilst also continuing with life and valuing the British values we often take for granted: freedom, equality and rule of law.
Parliament will hold a minute's silence at 09:33 and the Prime Minister will give a statement at 10:30, with the Defence Secretary answering questions soon after. This terrorist clearly tried to stop parliamentary democracy and, despite the cruel losses we had to go through, we can all sleep safely knowing they failed.