Far from dividing us, they have united us

The terrorist attack on Parliament was dreadful. Innocent tourists mown down indiscriminately by a car driving on the pavement, then a police officer stabbed to death.

I was in the chamber of the Commons at the time, as we were in the middle of a vote on social security measures. As I was chatting to the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, he was informed that there was a serious incident and as the nearest MP available he sent me off to the other end of the chamber to inform the Serjeant at Arms.

The Deputy Speaker and the Leader of the House of Commons, David Liddington, quickly conferred and the vote was suspended; the main doors to the chamber and voting lobbies were sealed and probably 3-400 MPs and a few staff were inside.

All the normal police procedures clicked into action, to check there were no more terrorists on the premises. Police SWAT teams arrived to sweep the whole Palace of Westminster. One of my friends, a Tory MP from Yorkshire, emerged from the toilets unaware and was challenged immediately by a heavily armed anti-terrorism policeman.

But he, like all of us, did the right thing – we followed all police orders.

Most MPs had their phones with them so we were following the news inside the Chamber. As time went on and batteries ran down, MPs with phone chargers started to share them around. We contacted our staff to make sure they were safe, and our families too.

A visiting group of primary school children were stuck in the public gallery. Some MPs went up to talk to them and reassure them

It was a business-like atmosphere, trusting the security services to do their job well, as they always do. However the mood turned sombre when we heard of deaths, especially the death of a policeman many of us knew, if only to say hello to.

As details emerge of the terrorist killer, it seems he already had a troubled background with a criminal record for various violent offences. Just the type to be radicalised and used by evil twisted puppet masters.

But these people make a fundamental mistake. They misunderstand the British character.

First, far from dividing us, they united us across the nation.

And second, if they think they can beat us into submission, they can think again. We are British and have never submitted to threats and violence. It is dreadful to live in the face of terror, but we have never given in in the past and we are going to do so now. 

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