Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street may have expected some comment on the deadly incident in London yesterday afternoon: if so, my apologies, but there are times when it is best to sit back and observe, take in the enormity of the crime, reflect on what has happened, and above all make sure that the facts are to hand. There was also the realisation that I could have been very adjacent to all of that.
Only the previous week, on the same day of the week, I had joined other campaigners for a lobby event in Parliament, then, later in the afternoon, attended a briefing round at the House of Lords committee rooms. After that, it was to join a group walking across Westminster to an evening reception. All of the scenes you saw in the news bulletins were part of that day, a routine that is as familiar to me as it is to many others.
What is also familiar is the interaction with all those officers of the Metropolitan Police who work tirelessly to keep the Palace of Westminster secure. On that previous Wednesday, they ushered visitors to the Commons through the security point, made sure we all had our badges telling “Visitor Has Been Scanned”. A helpful officer patrolling the lobby checked that I knew my way to the Committee Room corridor.
Back outside Parliament, another helpful officer - this one armed with a prominently held automatic weapon - took time out to describe how to locate Black Rod’s Garden Entrance. Later in the afternoon, one of his colleagues on duty at that entrance checked my name against his admission list, before allowing me through to another encounter with the scanner and a walk across the courtyard to the Lords’ committee rooms.
All of those Police officers stuck to their task with diligence and good humour, while keeping in mind the need to keep safe both those who work in and around Parliament, and those who - as is their historic right - visit to lobby their MPs, attend events, or just come for the guided tour. Those officers are part of the team that lets We The People interact personally with our representatives, get up close to the heart of our democracy.
And any one of those officers I encountered could have been Keith Palmer. Doing his job, doing his best to keep everyone reassured and happy while keeping them safe. Trying all the time to balance security and liberty. Except one of those officers did not complete their shift yesterday, and the security services now have another threat to understand, figure out, and learn how to deal with. It will not be easy; it never is.
Parliament will be open today; the business of democracy not only continuing, but seen to be doing so. An act of terrorism, whoever or whatever has inspired it, has left the perpetrator, two innocent bystanders, and that Police officer dead. The clock cannot be turned back. But the real motive of such attacks - to frighten us all to the point of curtailing our movements - has failed. And it will continue to fail.
To those who would disrupt our lives, there is one simple message: we are not afraid.