Before I get into this article, I feel it right to pay tribute to the 4 people who, at time of writing have died as a result of the tragic terror attack in Westminster on Wednesday, as well as the many injured and hospitalised. My thoughts are with all affected. I also want to make my support clear for the first class response by emergency services including PC Keith Palmer who sadly was killed, in securing the area so fast and handling the horror with such bravery and professionalism. They are heroes.
Every time this country has been hit by a tragic event, responsibility falls on the Prime Minister of the day to speak for the nation they lead. Whether it was Margaret Thatcher and Sir John Major responding to threats on their lives in attacks by the IRA, Tony Blair after the death of Princess Diana, or even Churchill with his outstanding wartime addresses, the Prime Minister must calm and speak for the entire United Kingdom.
Theresa May since becoming Prime Minister in July last year, had not this moment yet, but no Prime Minister wants it, they accept it’s part of the job if and when the time comes. Tragically, on Wednesday, it did. When a terrorist struck in Westminster on Wednesday, mowing down pedestrians and stabbing a police officer, the House of Commons was holding a division, which the Prime Minister was attending. She was near instantly evacuated to Downing Street, where the biggest responsibility any Head of Government faces awaited her: handling terrorism.
Whilst the public knew very little of the work she was undertaking due to the classified nature, the things that did come out were the right actions: The Prime Minister insisted on going to her weekly audience with The Queen, despite Westminster being entirely closed. She held an emergency meeting of the COBRA committee to gather all known facts so far. Not long after that, she held first public statement outside Number 10, where she captured the mood of London and the country excellently. Theresa May made it clear only hours after that Britain was strong and resilient and that we wouldn’t cower to terrorism.
The next morning in Parliament, she made what I think is one of the most sombre, yet strongest statements ever given by a Prime Minister to the House in my life. She paid beautiful tributes to those injured and killed, but she stood strong. She did not give in. ‘We are not afraid’ she made clear and after praise for her from every MP who spoke, she ended her statement making it clear that the United Kingdom’s core values that bind it together will not be broken. It was heartfelt and respectful, but strong and informative. She aced it. She spent yesterday afternoon visiting victims and thanking staff at Kings College hospital, continuing on with business, as did Parliament, which ended debating waste incinerators, as only the British would.
It is surreal how the Prime Minister went from just another PMQs session to leading us through this national time of coming together as people and a country. Her being Home Secretary had her having to work with Police and MI5 on terror threats and attacks, crime and national security day in, day out for six years. To handle incidents like what happened as Prime Minister, the role of Home Secretary prepares you and not just the advice she will have received for how to handle this from so many, but her experience in the Home Office was put to great practice in the immediate aftermath and I’m certain in the times ahead on investigating this and stopping future attacks. She rose to the occasion.