Westminster, 22 March 2017

Assuming the current assessment that today’s incident in Westminster was a terrorist attack is correct (and it seems very likely), exactly one year after the bombings in Brussels, then it is yet another dark reminder of the times we live in.

Westminster Bridge and Elizabeth Tower, Palace of Westminster

Reading and watching live reports as events unfold and scraps of information become available, my stomach is very queasy. It is an area of London that I visit regularly, and on another day, friends and acquaintances of mine and I could easily have been on Westminster Bridge. Many residents of London and those who have visited the city are probably feeling the same: it could have been me. It is a feeling that many people in many cities that have come under attack in recent times would likely to understand and share.

The background of the assailant and his motives for his actions will become clearer as intense investigation proceeds. Preventing all possible acts of terrorism is impractical and probably impossible: if such were attempted through massively intrusive surveillance for example, it would restrict our lives to an intolerable degree. However learning from incidents so that more attacks can be prevented would be at the forefront in the minds of the police and security services.

Terrorism is something many of us are aware of since the threat seems ever present, but perhaps somewhat vaguely like a background noise on most days, and the grimness and horror only become real when terrorist acts occur. Underneath the semblance of normality as people do what they do every day, perhaps there will be a sense of unease, mixed with defiance, in London for the next while.