Last Thursday morning fourteen people lost their lives in the terrorist atrocities in my constituency at Edgware Road and Aldgate.
Whether you live in Bayswater, Bucharest, Beijing or Buenos Aires you will all have heard within minutes of the terrible news of the bomb attacks in central London.
First and foremost this was a human tragedy.
The hundreds who perished or were injured woke up, just like you and me, last Thursday morning. They ate breakfast, had a shower and did all the mundane things we all do to prepare for work and what they thought would be another ordinary day. But many of these fellow commuters are no longer alive. The last moments of their lives were spent in unimaginable pain and horror.
We see their faces staring out every day from newspapers and magazines. The great majority of us in London were not directly affected by this tragedy, but who knows how closely our paths might at some point in recent weeks have crossed with those who were so ruthlessly murdered?
We may have been in the same café, restaurant or travelled on the same train or bus only a few days, weeks or months ago. It is the sheer randomness of the killings that is so shocking. My heart goes out to their relatives and friends who have spent a desperate last few days trying to track down their loved ones. For all those directly touched by this tragedy life will never be quite the same again and every year as 7 July comes around it will be with the heaviest of hearts.
However, it is not in any way to demean those who died or were grievously injured in this terrorist atrocity when I say that life must go on. Truly the criminal murderers who carried out these attacks will have won if we are all terrorised into going fearfully about our daily lives.
On Friday afternoon, alongside the Leader of Westminster City Council, Simon Milton, and the neighbouring Labour MP, Karen Buck, I met up with many of the community leaders in the Edgware Road and Paddington Green area. I am mindful of the importance of maintaining generally strong relations between different racial, ethnic and faith communities in our cities. Accordingly, I expect all of central London’s Muslim religious and community leaders now to take the initiative to prevent any local backlash by making public statements unequivocally condemning the perpetrators of last Thursday’s atrocities.
For it is the avowed aim of those carrying out last Thursday’s attack to divide our communities. For those who cherish liberty, freedom and the rule of law must stick together and hold their nerve in the face of the global terrorist threat which visited us with such devastating results on 7 July.
This was not an attack on London alone, but on the very idea of freedom, democracy and an open society. Terrorism preys particularly on communities that practice openness and tolerance. Indeed it is these beliefs rather than our ethnic origins, race or religion which make us what we are. Those enduring values of religious, political and economic freedom which are now under attack by terrorists. We must never forget that our love of freedom threatens terrorists and the dictators who support them, for they know that these powerful ideas of democracy, liberty and respect of human life will destroy their own power if they gain a foothold amongst their people. So the very best long-term deterrent to terrorism is the universal spread of these principles. The more quickly these values are promoted around the globe the safer we shall all be. Indeed the best antidote to international terrorism is to preach in every corner of the globe that gospel of freedom, liberty and the rule of law.
International terrorism lacks a set of enduring and popular values with which to combat liberty and democracy. Its only defence is to strike out indiscriminately against innocent civilians, destroy innocent human lives and hope to break our spirit. It is surely now the duty of our political leaders to stand up and be counted on behalf of those countries whose freedom and democracy have been more recently won.
If we are to use political correctness as an excuse for silence in the face of global terrorism then we will not serve the interests of our own populations, let alone those in the wider world to which we owe a moral duty. Today the world finds itself at a crossroads. On the one side are freedom, liberty and the rule of law and on the other tyranny, mass murder and chaos.
Instinctively we know, because we have been here before, the right path to take. We should show no fear and leave no doubt in the minds of the world outside of our true intentions.
Look at the faces of those that stare from all our newspapers this morning. Amidst the incongruous smiles from happier times on the faces of those who were doomed on that dark day there is a telling point. They reflect the multi-racial, multi-faith city that is London.
Terrorism will have won if the unity that makes up our great global city is now upset. Surely we owe it to them and their memory to ensure that our spirit will not be broken.