Column Evening Times 27th July


Rather depressing times in London as the nightmare of a second terrorist attack within two weeks unfolded. While there was general relief that the grotesque plans of the bombers did not come to fruition as they intended, the news was a shock to a city just starting to recover and get back to normal after the horrific events of July 7th.

On my way to the House of Commons chamber to take part in the debate on the Olympics Bill, I popped into the Lib Dem Office next door to check my pigeonhole for notices and post, when I looked up at the TV in the corner of the room to see Sky News reporting the incidents.

Again, the story emerged over time, with broadcasters not quite certain of the facts. Information dribbled in from different sources, and eventually a fuller picture built up during the course of the afternoon. As I entered the Commons chamber I whispered to the Lib Dems sitting next to me the reports of three small explosions on Tube trains, apparently not full-blown bomb detonations. When the news of the bus explosion in Hackney came through, I saw someone on the Labour side of the chamber make sure the MP for Hackney was aware of the situation.

Being a debate on the Olympics, there were obviously many MPs representing London constituencies there. They could be seen coming and going more than usual as they left the chamber for periods of time to attend to enquiries relating to their constituencies in the light of the attacks.

It was just another reminder of how life is that little bit different now that the security threat is heightened. New steel barriers have replaced concrete ones outside the Houses of Parliament. Tubes are still busy, but not quite as crammed as usual, with sales of bicycles apparently going through the roof. Police are highly visible wherever you go, sirens screech around the capital’s streets with surprising regularity, and outside Parliament police patrol with huge guns.

Of course the issue of the reactions of armed police has been in the media spotlight this week, with the tragic death of Jean Charles de Menezes. I do not envy those who have to put themselves in the situation of making those vital split-second judgements to shoot or not. The fatal mistake comes at an already difficult time for the police and intelligence services. I hope it does not detract from the diligent, dangerous, dedicated work being undertaken by so many members of the emergency services since 7 July. They have been wonderful in the face of terrible conditions.

*****

Back in the constituency for recess, I am have been devoting time to sorting out the office in Bishopbriggs. A telephone engineer has finally installed the phone lines, so constituents can ring me on a local number – 0141 762 2209. Filing cabinets and storage are next on my list, but there’s desks and chairs and basic stationery, which is definitely progress. And while I am still recruiting for staff, at least I now have one person, Nick, based in the office full-time.

*****

I was intrigued this week to learn of Tony Blair’s make-up bill at the taxpayer’s expense – about £1800 since he took office in 1997. To be honest, most people I speak to think he looks like he’s aged much more than 8 years in that time, so perhaps he should be shelling out on the Oil of Olay and anti-ageing creams rather than foundation and blusher. In any case, much as I do enjoy a trip to the make-up counter at Boots to treat myself with my Advantage Card points, I think I’ll be sticking to buying my own make-up rather than expecting the taxpayer to foot the bill!


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