Friday, 24 March 2017


Working south of the river in Lambeth for a few years in my twenties, I used to walk across Westminster Bridge regularly, mostly for a bit of lunchtime exercise. I saw the London Eye being raised out of the river, Portcullis House being built, and the London Marathon run past. It's normally such a beautiful place to be, with the majestic Thames flowing beneath one's feet and really quite glorious architecture all around. Westminster Bridge always felt like a breath of fresh air, a wide boulevard on London's normally choking and congested streets. So it was with total horror that I watched the helicopter camera footage of a grey Hyundai charging along its pavements yesterday, ploughing into pedestrians before crashing into the railings of Parliament. Those lovely wide pavements had been turned into a weapon and used against our capital's citizens and visitors.

Having lived in London in July 2005, I remember the aftermath of a terrorist attack on our city all too well. The shock and disbelief, the sadness, the fear. The relief of a lucky escape for those who knew it could so easily have been them, of which thankfully I was one. But there was also the resolute determination amongst Londoners to rise up, come together and carry on as normal. And I know that London will do this again now, nearly 12 years on. It's a city that will survive anything that is thrown at it.

But the MPs in Parliament angered me yesterday. Not one of them was hurt, but they have made the incident all about them. They were drinking tea and ambling around lobbies in their safe little bubble while over 20 people sustained catastrophic injuries on the street outside. A policeman died protecting the MPs and their self-serving interests. Lucky Theresa May, instantly whisked off in an armoured car, while a man lay bleeding to death at her gates.

"This was an attack on democracy", they cried. Actually, thanks to fast-acting security services, he didn't get that far. The IRA did far more damage to government property and staff. And democracy? Yes, Parliament, that well known democratic institution, where (thanks to the first-past-the-post system) most people's votes don't end up with an MP representing them in the Commons, where the upper chamber's amendments to a bill can just be laughed at, and where we currently have an unelected Prime Minster being puppeteered by Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch, meaning she is ignoring half the voting population's wish not to leave the European Union at all. No, this ended up being a dreadful attack on innocent individuals caught up in a horrific situation by a mere twist of fate, and terrible bad luck. Parliament is destroying democracy all by itself.

"No terrorist will divide us", they shouted. No, you are also too busy dividing the country yourselves, by doing nothing to stop the anti-immigrant sentiment and racial hatred in our towns and villages, doing nothing to allay the fears of EU nationals living here with perfect right to do so, doing nothing to appease the devolved nations, doing nothing to make the rich poorer or the poor richer and society more equal, and doing nothing to accept that a 50/50 vote is not a mandate to pursue a hard Brexit at all costs, leaving millions of us too upset for words.

"The emergency services are amazing," they cooed. Well, of course they bloody are. And all the more amazing for managing to keep going while you cripple them of funds and rob them of their morale. Thank goodness that St Thomas's Hospital lies opposite the Houses of Parliament so that medics could be on the scene on foot in seconds. But how many of those injured who had to be transferred further afield were kept lying in ambulances and corridors for hours because there are no spare hospital beds in London?

Think, MPs, of what you were spared. Think of the men and women outside on the street who were killed because he couldn't get to you. And may it make you more humble. You are the privileged ones, and you must never abuse your power.

And London, as ever, I love you. My thoughts and heart are with you today.

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