ONE of the problems with a rolling 24-hour news service is that people tend to get desensitised to what is happening in the world. How often do you turn on the TV and see stories of murder, death and violence from every corner of the world but think that it will never affect you?

The terrible events of last Wednesday shattered not just our feelings of safety but also the lives of those who were injured, the families of those who died and made everyone else feel a lot less secure and safe going about their daily business.

From what we know so far this looks like one man decided – for reasons known only to himself – to murder pedestrians walking along Westminster Bridge and then to run into the Parliamentary Estate and stab a policeman to death. This was an act aimed at making everyone feel unsafe and threatened.

Loading article content

Those people on Westminster Bridge were just going along with their daily routine, a mother walking home to her family and children, a tourist sightseeing in London and many others simply doing what they probably do every day. Then suddenly a car is used as a weapon to mow them down, to cause as much pain and as many deaths as possible.

The car is then driven into a fence outside Parliament and the driver runs into the Parliamentary Estate where one of the police officers on duty – PC Keith Palmer – moves to stop him and ends up stabbed to death simply for doing his job.

Keith Palmer was an unarmed member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Squad, one of the many people who work in the Parliamentary Estate that enable the Westminster Parliament to function. He was simply doing his job on Wednesday. He saw someone running with a knife towards Parliament and moved to intercept him. He was trying to protect others within Parliament and paid a heavy price for it. His bravery ensured others’ safety. It’s difficult to put into words how I and probably everyone who works in Parliament feel about what has happened, especially to someone we passed by on a regular basis. No one should go to their work and not expect to return home to their family at the end of their shift. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues.

What started out as an ordinary Wednesday ended up as a horrific scene, with a terror attack in London, leaving five people dead and others in hospital, some suffering from severe injuries.

Terror attacks like this are used to undermine our way of life. They are meant to disrupt us going about our daily business. If you can’t take for granted that you can safely walk along one of the major bridges in the UK’s capital city, then where (or when) can you be assured of your safety?

We can all accept that accidents can happen. Something out of the ordinary or a safety failure that can result in injury or death is a hazard of everyday life but one that we usually put to the back of our minds. However, what happened on Wednesday was different. This was a deliberate attack on ordinary people. How can you rationalise that without ending up fearful of everyone and everything you meet in your day-to-day life? That is the point of terror attacks. To disrupt how we go about our lives and to drive division within society.

The same rolling 24-hour news coverage which to some extent makes us immune from violence when it happens elsewhere can create a feeding frenzy of rumours, ill-judged statements and outright lies when broadcasters struggle to get to grips with a story. It seems that all the usual editorial control is discarded and any comment will do. In a rush to get the latest exclusive and beat the competition, any normal fact-checking is either rushed or ignored. We get journalists filing in the gaps with supposition and rumour, creating more confusion for everyone trying to find out what really happened.

This suits those who want to use attacks like Wednesday’s to spread their message of division and hate. Leading the charge, as per usual, are the voices of the far right – including Ukip and Britain First. As soon as they realise the person responsible isn’t white they use this to push their message of hate. Nigel Farage – former Ukip leader and part-time MEP – pops up repeatedly on the US Fox News channel spouting absolute rubbish. Just about every claim he makes is false – but channels like Fox want controversy not truth, so Farage is allowed to make claims about immigrants being responsible even though the attack was committed by a UK national from Kent (where Nigel Farage also comes from, funnily enough).

When the country is in shock the last thing we should do is listen to the right-wing extremists of Farage, Ukip and Britain First who use any justification to promote their agenda of hate. In contrast, we should look at the comments made by Brendan Cox, the husband of the late Jo Cox MP who was murdered in a previous terror attack last June.

“What the terrorist would like to happen is for us to fall apart and start blaming groups of people, to say that in some way this is Muslim or Islam as a whole,” he said.

“We have to remember that the person who did this is no more representative of British Muslims than the person who killed Jo is representative of people that are from Yorkshire.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to remember the names of the victims like PC Palmer and not the name of the person who did this, partly driven by the desire for notoriety.”

It is in times like these I think of the words of Fred Rogers: “I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”