Alistair Clark, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Newcastle University and current House of Commons / Political Studies Association Fellow reflects on the events of 22 March 2017 in the Palace of Westminster.
Many people pass through parliament every week. As academics, we deal with parliamentarians to bring evidence to policy debates, undertake research and so on. As one of the current House of Commons / Political Studies Association Fellows, I was in parliament for research purposes on 22nd March when the terrible events of the day unfolded. Although I saw nothing of those events, and was never personally close to what happened having been in a different part of the estate, a short reflection conveys some thoughts on those events.
Thoughts are rightly with PC Keith Palmer’s family and colleagues, and with all those injured and killed by the attacker, from wherever in the world they came from. The parliamentary security and police details are always unfailing polite and helpful in my experience. They were quite remarkable yesterday under extremely trying circumstances. I will long have a memory of them lining the way out of parliament for everyone yesterday, sombre, professional and doing their much appreciated duty.
What this should remind us all is that parliament does not just consist of MPs, Peers and their staff. It also consists of many other people, of all religions and none. These people include cleaning staff, catering staff, librarians, receptionists, parliamentary clerks, administrators, researchers, tour guides, shop staff and many many others. They all work in parliament doing their daily jobs to help support a fully functioning democracy, yet in a building which has long been at risk of some attack. This was an attack on parliament as a whole, on those who work there as well as those who represent and govern us. Everyone’s contribution ought to be recognised after events such as these.
What will remain in mind of the day for a long time was the kindness of the staff in the building where I was locked down for about five hours before allowed out at around 7.45. MPs’ staff shared packets of biscuits and drinks from their offices, parliamentary staff brought round water and did their best to keep everyone informed and comfortable. There were many members of the public who had been in to talk to MPs. A chair was brought for a pregnant woman to sit on. I chatted to one journalist a couple of times, and he subsequently published an excellent piece about some of the people in the building and how events unfolded inside.
Ordinary decency, dignity and helpfulness then, on a remarkable day. It is right that the parliamentary response has been to sit again the day after these events. It will be a sombre place. Remember all the victims and those affected from wherever they came. As you ponder what happened, spare a thought today for all who do their daily work, in whatever way – MPs, Peers, their staff, journalists and all the various parliamentary staff and security personnel – to help support that democracy.
Alistair Clark is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Newcastle University and current House of Commons / Political Studies Association Fellow. He tweets @ClarkAlistairJ.
This post was originally posted on the PSA Insight blog.