THE BLOG

In Brussels, Lives Have Been Lost: This Is Not the Time for Political Capital

22/03/2016 14:51 GMT | Updated 23/03/2017 09:12 GMT

At the time I write this, the death toll from the Brussels terrorist attacks is 34. I've got, sadly, almost no doubt it will have risen by the time this is published.

The details coming in are still mixed, as they always are: two blasts in a departure lounge, one on the metro. A suicide bomber in the airport. Arabic was shouted.

It feels almost laughable to try to write about this because there are things that words can't touch and this is one of them. Lives are gone. It can be very easy to lose sight of individuals in statistics. We can shake our heads at numbers. That might be because if we sit down and think about the weight of those statistics, it would crush us.

And so today, I find myself actually agreeing with Ed Miliband on something - and believe me, that is not a sentence I say often. Just as rare, he and Prime Minister David Cameron seem to have found themselves in agreement. They have both spoken out against people using the tragedy of these attacks as, as Miliband put it, "Political capital" in the EU referendum campaigns.

The very fact that this needs to be pointed out is awful but it does. For people on both sides of the campaign-it is absolutely horrific to think these deaths could be used as an argument for leaving or remaining in the EU.

Similarly, it is chilling to see that we have to warn people against Islamophobia already. But we can't be naive. There are people out there who will use this tragedy as an excuse to perpetuate vile, racist beliefs, people who are already doing this, when at the time of writing, it has not even yet been confirmed which terrorist group is responsible for the attacks. Like I said, we can't be naive. I will be shocked beyond words if this is not the work of the group which calls itself Islamic State. But to leap into this horror to use the attacks to slander an entire religion - a religion which preaches peace above all else - is unbelievably callous and an insult to the people who have lost their lives.

Because that is why it is so upsetting - so deeply upsetting - that people could use these attacks as part of a political argument. It's why, to my complete shock, I find myself in total agreement with Ed Miliband on a subject. These people-people who have lost their lives-are not statistics. They are not lines that can be crafted in a debate on Europe. They were living, breathing human beings, who died this morning.

They are not an argument. They are not a debate. They are not a political weapon. They are people who have died.

These people got up this morning. They ate breakfast. They kissed their children. They were probably messing about on Twitter, checking their Facebook, wondering whether to pick something up for dinner tonight. They walked into a departure lounge with suitcases, wondering about what their flight would be like, or they stepped onto a metro with headphones on, music blasting like always. They were daydreaming, thinking vaguely about the day ahead.

Now, they're dead.

Tonight, there will be little children who will be told that they will never see their parents again. There will be people who look at an argument they had with their friend and know they'll never get the chance to apologise. This morning, there was a little child who screamed in terror as they were removed from the metro. That child is not a statistic. They are not a political argument. They are someone who will live with this forever.

The people who have done this are beyond comprehension. They have proven, time and time again, that they bear almost no resemblance to humanity. What they want is to destroy and divide us.

If we turn this into arguments - if we use this as an excuse to turn on each other - they have won.

We cannot let that happen. This is the time that politics is put aside. This is the time that we unite against these people. Because whatever side we take in a debate, whatever political party we support-we are people. It's easy to forget that. We are all people, with families and lives and love. And if we start to turn on each other - if we start to use people's lives as political argument, if we put that before the factors which unite us - these monsters who are responsible for this slaughter have won.

This isn't a day for political argument. This is not a day we'll let them win. We will never let them win.

Today, people have lost their lives. And we must stand united against the people who have murdered them.

We cannot ever let them win.