International Situation

One of the most attractive features of political life is its sheer uncertainty. My last column was written in the second week of September and I discussed my involvement on behalf of constituents affected by the difficulties surrounding the insurance company Equitable Life as well as what seemed the most the pressing issue of the day, namely the proposed congestion charge on entering the streets of central London.

Yet the month was not even half over when the political world was shaken by the appalling events in New York. There is not much I can add in this column that has not already been written many times over. In this world of rapid global communications I believe the greatest horror for most of us was being able to watch events as they unfolded live on television. Inevitably security in London has, and will continue to be, increased and we shall have to grow accustomed to wider surveillance of certain groups of people within our country, although I believe this should not justify a wholesale erosion of our liberties. For countless thousands of people, particularly in New York, the events of 11 September will understandably have changed their outlook on everything, but if the rest of us really believe that the whole world has changed since these appalling outrages, then in a way we are accepting that the terrorists have won. I reckon this approach would be a mistake and that in every sense life must go on.

May I thank the many dozens of constituents who have taken the trouble to write in the last few weeks with their thoughts on the international situation. One intriguing fact is that the vast majority of my correspondents on this subject have been women, many expressing their concerns about the military build-up, and it has been of great value to me to appreciate the strength of feeling from many fellow local residents about the way ahead.

As a newly elected MP I have spent much of the summer here at the Houses of Parliament, setting up my parliamentary office, dealing with constituency matters (even in the vacation the post bag is heavy I receive up to 80 pieces of mail every day of the week, the majority of which demand a detailed reply) and meeting the important movers and shakers in both Westminster and the City of London, which makes up the other part of my constituency. Although few MPs are about, the Houses of Parliament are not exactly deserted because in the summer there are masses of construction workers on site beavering away in the annual refit of this old building. Whilst here I have begun to prepare work on a number of important London related issues, which will develop over the next year. Although the events of 11 September have taught us all that we never know what is round the corner, I appreciate that many local folk still have important day to day concerns that need to be dealt with. These matters might seem mundane, but people here have no reason to feel apologetic about addressing their concerns with me in spite of the grave international situation.