Last week brought a shocking reminder of both the fragility and the importance of our democracy. Thanks to our world leading intelligence services we have been spared attacks of the frequency seen in France, for example, but as details emerge about the attack on Wednesday they do so in a way that shows how hard it is to eliminate the threat. A car and a knife are a long way from a sophisticated attack but were sadly effective.
I was shocked to hear of the unfolding events. At the time I happened to be in Canada with a cross party group of MPs, meeting with Canadian parliamentarians and examining trade opportunities. We stopped our meetings and anxiously called our families and offices, checking everyone was OK and hoping that this wasn't the beginning of a co-ordinated attack. We were really saddened to hear of the passing of the police officer later in the day, and held a minute's silence in the British High Commission in Montreal with Canadian colleagues.
On Thursday we were received formally by the Parliament in Quebec, and were very moved and honoured to receive for the British people the support and solidarity of the people of Quebec, and to hear emotional speeches in that regard from parliamentarians on all sides. It was strange to be away at that momentous time, and with some of those associated with Parliament going through such difficulty, but it was of comfort to know the Canadian people understand, having been through similar experiences at their parliaments in Quebec and Ottawa in recent years.
Information about the attacker challenges preconceptions about perpetrators of this sort of event and so called Islamic State. Older than one would assume and born in this country, this was not really a religious warrior fighting an ideological struggle. Rather it seems he was a particularly antisocial person with a violent criminal past, who had dreamt up or been persuaded of an excuse for his personality. This is important in how we react to events: he did not represent a religion, ethnic group or way of life and as an individual I doubt he will be remembered at all.
We shall remember the victims of the attack from across the world. Some were visiting London and would have seen a vibrant and welcoming capital city. Others were just loyally and bravely doing their jobs.
I’d like to thank everyone who has got in touch with kind words since the attack. The events showed a very human side to Westminster and the response has been the same. There will, of course, be an extensive security review but the Houses of Parliament will remain open to the public. They are a true centre of democracy where people come and make their voices heard.
The House of Commons has been busy as usual this week, although the sense of sadness is tangible. Alongside MPs there are thousands of people who work there at all hours of the day. No one is giving the attack more stature than it deserves. They are simply going to work.