London, Euston Station, Friday morning 24 March. Waiting for my train to Manchester. From one great city to another. Going to see Car Seat Headrest tonight. I’ve been to Manchester quite often, but only on work trips or stag-dos. I’ve never had a good look around. Hope to today – I say “hope” because, as I write, the train is stationary in a place called Kings Langley, 15 minutes from London. Some incident ahead, which has required the police and ambulance staff. Been here for an hour now.
But as I sat in Euston, watching all the people waiting for their trains, people on the go, people coming into London on just another day, I thought back (again) to the horrific events on Wednesday, when people were killed and maimed by a deranged individual who ploughed his car into them on Westminster Bridge before he stabbed a policeman to death at the gates of Westminster Palace. The heart of democracy, a place always heaving with tourists, as well as people going about their business. A senseless act by a convicted criminal who presumably believed his act was an act of war in a holy war. It would be absurd if it wasn’t so tragic.
It was an incident close to home for me. I’m often in the House of Commons meeting MPs and sometimes being grilled by them in select committees. Three of my colleagues were caught up in the lockdown, ending up with a few hours in Westminster Abbey. I could have been there – I had been invited to go to the meeting they were due to attend. But I decided I had better things to do. Close call.
Watching the TV news last night was a moving experience. The tributes, the family stories, the defiance. There was even solidarity with London from other parts of the country. That’s rare. London does stand out and is resented, of course, for its wealth, its perceived arrogance, its accrual of power, it’s expensiveness, and maybe its diversity and openness. Its difference. London is a world city. It welcomes, absorbs, constantly evolves. There is poverty, violence, anger, exploitation, signal failure on the underground, outrageously costly accommodation, empty homes owned by money laundering foreigners; but there is life. Endless life. Endless opportunity – which is why so many people want to come and live here. People from the rest of the UK, the rest of Europe, the rest of the world.
I’m proud of London, love living in London. The world city.