Iain Wright: We must stand united against terrorism

Floral tributes to the victims of the Westminster terrorist attack.
Floral tributes to the victims of the Westminster terrorist attack.

It seems almost inevitable that it was only a matter of time before there was another terrorist attack on British soil- our security services have held our severe threat level at “highly likely” for years. Yet none of us can say we weren’t shocked by the horrific attack that took place in Westminster last week.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who were killed. I want to pay tribute in particular to PC Keith Palmer, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty protecting Parliament from a man intent on causing fear and carnage.

The attacker also attempted to enter the Parliamentary Estate, which is when he fatally stabbed PC Palmer before being shot and killed by police. Security in such a large building – probably the most high profile and prominent building in Britain, and of the top ones in the world - will never be easy but I do think the Police and the House of Commons security workers have done an outstanding job ensuring the safety of those who work and visit the Parliamentary Estate. They do so every single day. They did so last Wednesday. They have done so since. They deserve our gratitude.

The family of PC Palmer issued such a beautiful, moving and dignified statement following the attack.

I think it is worth reproducing: “We want to thank everyone who has reached out to us over the past few days for their kindness and generosity.”

The police have been a constant, unwavering support at this very difficult time. It has made us realise what a caring, strong and supportive family Keith was part of during his career with the police. We can’t thank them enough. We would also like to express our gratitude to the people who were with Keith in his last moments and who were working that day. There was nothing more you could have done.

You did your best and we are just grateful he was not alone. We care about him being remembered for his selfless bravery and loving nature.”

In my view one thing we must absolutely avoid is reacting in a way that would further alienate communities, breed more extremism and ultimately play into terrorists’ hands. There has already been a racist backlash on social media and claims by some political figures, before the full facts were even known, that the attack justifies the introduction of something along the lines of the anti-Muslim travel ban advocated by President Trump. As well as being counter-productive, this overlooks the fact that the Westminster terrorist was actually not an immigrant: he was born in this country. This is not the first terrorist attack on British soil and unfortunately it won’t be the last. The proper response to such an attack is always to think of the victims and their families. But we must also have the strength as a society to stand united against all forms of extremism and oppose all those who try to drive a wedge between us.