We’ve all been trying to get our heads around what happened in London yesterday. As you will know someone drove a car at speed across Westminster Bridge ploughing through pedestrians on the pavement causing death and damage to the people there. He then rammed the car into the railings, got out and then tried to gain access to the Palace of Westminster. One policeman was stabbed and then another one brought the attacker down with a gun. Both the policeman and the attacker died as did, so far, three people on the bridge. Several people are still seriously ill in hospital. We followed the events on radio and TV through the afternoon and by the time I was ready to leave for home there was a more than usual police presence on the streets of Manchester, 200 miles north of the capital. No doubt that was repeated across the country.
Sadly, this was expected. There have been attacks of this kind across the world and it’s never been ‘if’ but ‘when’ this would happen. As I write this I’m listening to the latest news on the radio. The attacker is from this country as we suspected. Some people are saying we should close our borders and keep people out. How this would help I am at a loss to understand. We are already great at keeping people out. If your papers aren’t in order as you arrive in the UK, if there is anything about you that border control doesn’t like about you, you will soon find yourself on the way back to whence you came.
This attack was perpetrated by a British person. Already here, living alongside of us. In spite of living in one of the most open, tolerant countries on the planet he has chosen to align himself with an idea alien to the values we hold dear in the UK and in other countries around the world. Ideas can not be kept out by stronger physical borders. You can’t send an army to defeat them. As I listen to the radio I hear that the police and security forces are raiding places across the country in an attempt to find out more about this person and his connections. This is all well and good. But to defeat the idea you have to be far cleverer than that.
Bad ideas can only be defeated by good ideas. In a country like the UK we have a lot going for us. We are rich, peaceful, tolerant. We are healthy, we live long, fulfilled lives. We have freedom, we can speak against ideas that we don’t like. We guard our rights and freedoms jealously. Other people, in much less tolerant, more violent parts of the world are threatened by this. They see people in their countries looking at how we live in countries like the UK and fear that they will want the same for themselves. They fear they will lose control over their people. They attack people in their own countries and seek to do the same in cities like London.
The security forces have said they have thwarted several plots to do similar things in the UK over the last few years. But we are a country of 65,000,000, we can’t watch everyone. It wasn’t done with guns. He used a car and kitchen knives. You can’t ban them.
We will, over the next few days, unravel this plot, learn from it, mend the people who are damaged and bury and mourn our dead. Then we will get back to normal. The Palace of Westminster is a public building. It’s the heart of our democracy. It’s called the ‘mother of Parliaments’, a template for other parliaments around the world. It will not be turned into an impenetrable fortress the PM has said. Which is right, if we did that these despicable people will have won. We have faced worse than this in out past and will face this.
I thought I’d share this written on a notice board in a London tube station yesterday.