Terrorism only strengthens our democracy

The scene of the terrorist attack outside the Palace of Westminster. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA WireThe scene of the terrorist attack outside the Palace of Westminster. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
The scene of the terrorist attack outside the Palace of Westminster. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
I am writing this in the early hours of the morning, the day after the terror attack in London, as I head back to Northumberland by train.

The death of PC Keith Palmer, one of the police protection team at Westminster, during the horrific attacks on Wednesday, will stay with me forever.

A man gave his life to save all of us from a crazed attacker intent on destroying the democracy we have built up over centuries.

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But thanks to his bravery, and that of so many others – civilian, police and security forces – the terrorist failed.

He murdered and injured innocent adults and children. But his actions have only made every single one of us more determined than ever that democracy, the rule of law, and resolution of differences through peaceful means is the right solution in a free and democratic nation.

Not a single person I spent those tense hours with, first locked into a committee room, then in Speakers Courtyard, then Westminster Hall, then Westminster Abbey, had anything but overwhelming praise for those protecting us.

There was no anxiety beyond the practicalities of ensuring their families were reassured, kids were able to get home after school, and that phones could be kept charged so that those watching this ghastly attack on their TVs could be assured that we were all safe and protected.

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The British Blitz spirit is alive and well in the hearts and minds of us all.

So many people, friends and strangers alike, sent me kind messages as the evening unfolded, which I was so touched by.

But the text which sums up for me how we go forwards was from a friend early on Thursday morning, a military man who has done many tours of duty:

“Woke up as normal.

“Remembered terror attack on heart of our democracy.

“Put kettle on as normal.

“Checked weather as normal.

“Breakfast as normal.

“Going to work as normal.”

Keith Palmer’s devotion to duty, and that he gave his life for us, means that normal has prevailed. As it must.

Terrorism will never win.

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• Earlier on Wednesday, before the attack unfolded, I was fortunate to be called by Mr Speaker in Prime Minister’s Questions and raised the excellent campaign being run by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

It is challenging us all to action to help in small ways to reduce loneliness.

This is with regard to the elderly, so many of whom live alone – and 33 per cent of my constituency is over 65, one of the highest in the country – and those who have become detached from friends and family.

And, perhaps specifically, for those female military veterans which the excellent charity Forward Assist, of which I am a patron along with North East Labour MPs Anna Turley and Emma Lewell-Buck, is supporting.

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The Prime Minister has said that the Secretary of State for Defence will meet with us to discuss ways in which we can help these extraordinary women who have served our nation so bravely, but come home alone.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is something we can all get involved in.

The Commission aims not simply to make us aware of the problem, but to ask us all to take action to reduce loneliness.

With the message, Start a Conversation, the Commission wants to get us all talking in our communities – whether chatting to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just making time for the people we meet.

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The Commission is working with Age UK, the Alzheimer’s Society, British Red Cross, the Campaign to End Loneliness, The Silver Line, Royal Voluntary Service, Independent Age, Gransnet and The Big Lunch, to provide a real spotlight on this issue from now up until April 23.

During this period and throughout the year, it will be highlighting what you can do as an individual to combat loneliness in your community.

As Jo said, we can all do something to help lonely people in our community, so why not start a conversation with a lonely older person today?