SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Pulling together, not pulling apart

Writing a week after visitors, Londoners and PC Keith Palmer sadly died, I want to give some of my reflections after reproducing the words left with simple flowers by Keith's police response team colleagues in Parliament's New Palace Yard outside the ancient Westminster Hall:

Thursday, 30th March 2017, 10:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:29 pm
Flowers left in Parliament's New Palace Yard

“A Hero is

One who never hesitates to tackle difficult problems,

one who is always by your side,

one who knows right from wrong,

one who acts with pride.

A hero touches everyone of us, whether it be word or deed,

always tending to those who are in need.

When a hero leaves this earth,

yes it’s sad – but true,

all too many times the hero is dressed in Blue.

Rest in peace, Keith

from C Relief ARVs”

It is a reminder that the blue light responders often go forward to unknown dangers. Sometimes, like Keith Palmer, they advance to known danger.

I shall think most often of the victims. When the attacker comes to mind, it will be as Adrian Bell, his first names. Unless there is strong evidence that his claimed faith had anything to do with his reversion to attacking others with a knife, we can assume it has not. Even if there had been a purpose of trying to set people against each other, we do not have to participate in division. When confronting violence, we can together guess what publicity and what public reaction are anticipated by the perpetrator.

Without trying to pretend that a murderous attack has not happened, we can avoid breathless, near pornographic, details repeated over and over again.

If the bad, sad or deranged person hopes their legacy will be hatred between communities, we can be one community, relying on each other, trusting each other and supporting each other. We, you and I, have tasks to achieve. What happens to us, to you and to me, will largely be the result of our choices and of what we do together.

During this week I have been involved with our local pupils, their teachers and governors. The Worthing mayor Sean McDonald and I, at the invitation of the head teacher Mrs Bull, were entertained by children at West Park Church of England Primary School. With the art group Creative Waves, they had wall murals and window art work that illustrated the choice to be a beach school. Later I joined pupils, staff and governors at East Preston Junior School in Lashmar Road to discuss fair funding for schools in West Sussex where education has historically been under-funded.

By happy coincidence, Catriona Bull of West Park had previously joined MPs at a briefing meeting at Westminster. I did admire the open atmosphere at each school. Some East Preston pupils had been at Westminster, talking with me just before the tragedy unfolded. I had explained that parliamentary debate and frequent elections are better than violence on the streets.

Paul Riley leads Worthing College. I called on him too. In addition to being the local sixth form college, there are good courses for apprenticeship training, just as there are at Sue Dare’s Northbrook College.

The Ofsted report on Worthing includes these words: “Apprentices quickly acquire the necessary technical skills required to work effectively. They develop the confidence to work independently, or as a member of the workforce, and use their initiative and communication skills well in varied client situations. Progression rates into employment and further education are high.”

I am telling ministers that the official summary is that ‘apprenticeship achievement rates are high’. The college achieves that success by having a plan and by carrying it out. When people do the right things, we all gain. Courage is habit; most people recover from difficult circumstances without harming others.

I conclude by thanking Keith’s colleagues for their touching reminder of what the hero does.


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