The recent atrocities in Westminster serve to remind us that we are vulnerable to the attacks of not just organised terrorists, but also those of lone wolf self styled terrorists.
Parliament is surrounded by tourists most of the time. Whilst we may occasionally get frustrated, struggling through crowds whilst trying to move between buildings in Westminster, we always welcome the fact that the world recognises the Palace of Westminster as a globally iconic site. That is why it is so utterly tragic that so many people from other nations were hurt or killed.
Core to our parliamentary democracy is the openness of Parliament. I was struck, whilst being evacuated by heavily armed security services, just how many school children were with our group as we made our way to Westminster Abbey. It is not just a core right that everyone can come to Parliament to see what goes on and meet their MP; it is vital that the whole process is open to everyone. Striking the balance between security and openness is the hardest task of any democratic security service. Inspiring the next generation by bringing in school groups is a significant part of that democratic function.
So people must feel welcome when they come. We have armed police with us the whole time, but it is the unarmed officers who are the ones that offer good natured kindness to visitors, frequently posing with tourists for selfie snaps. And that is why it was so tragic that Keith Palmer, one of the unarmed officers, was killed in this atrocity.
Over the coming weeks and months there will be many opinions offered about how to juggle this incredibly tricky balancing act – a balancing act that doesn’t just protect MPs and all those who work in the palace. It is vital that we don’t just maintain the opportunity for people to come into this iconic building and meet their elected representatives; it is vital that whilst they are here they are protected from harm.
The system within the palace worked well. The attacker got just 20 yards into the estate. But as we review security in Westminster, and MPs’ security after the tragic killing of Jo Cox, I for one will be ensuring that not one of my constituents will be denied the opportunity to meet me, nor any of them denied the chance to visit the mother of all parliaments. Changing our behaviour will only hand a victory to terrorists.