'Terror at the heart of power' - and brave MP hailed

Armed police at Westminster attack scene Image copyright EPA

Thursday's newspapers are given over almost entirely to the terror attack in Westminster, with many journalists who work there giving first hand accounts of what they saw.

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail writes of witnessing "a vile vista of violence" from his office under Big Ben. He describes in detail the attack on the officer who died, PC Keith Palmer, and of seeing the attacker fall instantly to the ground after "three crisp shots" from two plain-clothes officers. Their reaction, he says, was fast and they conducted themselves tidily, without melodrama.

The Sun's Harry Cole says doormen and security guards at the Commons tore down corridors screaming "get down, this is not a drill, stay away from the windows". Crouched by a photocopier, he peered out and saw the attacker writhing on the ground after being shot, with armed officers yelling at him to "stay down". "They've told us for so long to be prepared for something like this to happen here," he says, "but nothing prepares you for the sense of helplessness as you watch a terror attack unfold from your office window."

The Daily Telegraph's political editor Gordon Rayners says: "Images of a Mumbai-style terrorist attack flashed through my mind as I wondered whether a gunman had managed to get into the building." Others, he says, feared the same.

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Image caption Paramedics have been praised for getting to the scene quickly to help the injured

All the papers have pages of graphic images of the events that unfolded.

The i newspaper talks of "chaos, carnage and courage in the political heart of the capital". It has photos of members of the public assisting the injured on Westminster Bridge, and a doctor looking dazed and upset in the middle of the road.

The Times describes how staff from St Thomas's Hospital, which overlooks the bridge, sprinted to the scene. One tells the paper: "It was just horrible, there were just bodies on the bridge, maybe ten plus, most of them were foreigners."

The Sun has a double page spread showing members of the public coming to the aid of pedestrians who had been hit by the attacker's car on Westminster Bridge. It says the woman rescued from the Thames was saved by a fire service vessel on a training exercise. It is not known if she jumped to escape the car or was hit and hurled into the water.

It also has a picture of primary schoolchildren on a visit from Bridgwater in Somerset who were unable to leave Parliament during the lockdown. They lifted people's spirits, the paper says, by singing.

There is praise for the response by the emergency services, which the Daily Express describes as "reassuringly impressive". The Daily Telegraph salutes the armed officers who stopped the attacker going any further and the emergency services who were quickly on the scene to tend to the dead and injured.

"It has become commonplace," says the Daily Mirror, "to praise our police and emergency services. Yesterday showed why we should never take their gallantry and professionalism for granted."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Sun believes Britain must consider a huge increase in armed police right across the country

According to the i, the Westminster attack is another example of the new terrorism: low-tech, suicidal or semi-suicidal and as indiscriminate as any other iteration of terror. The intelligence services should receive generous funding to pursue as much suspicious activity as possible, it says.

The Daily Mail says that for many years it has stood up for the privacy of the individual against surveillance by the state. "But the truth is that in a fast-changing world, it seems increasingly perverse to deny the authorities power to eavesdrop on our electronic communications for the purpose of protecting the public."

The Sun believes Britain must consider a huge increase in armed police right across the country. "It has never seemed right before," the paper says, "but the world has changed."

The Daily Telegraph cautions against over-reaction; jihadis pose a real and present danger, it says, they want us to shut down normal life. We must deny them the disproportionate reaction they seek.

The Daily Mirror's main headline talks of "an attack on democracy". However, according to Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, this attack is a tragedy, but not a threat to democracy. The terrorists' aim is not just to kill a few, but to terrify a multitude; to over-react would be to play into their hands.

'Never break the spirit'

According to the Times, there is no such thing as absolute security in an open society. There is only the relentless work of police and the security services, side by side with the softer arms of government, to anticipate plots, the better to defeat them and the stoicism of a citizenry that will never let hate win.

The Daily Express says those who choose to spill blood for their creed or cause deserve nothing but our contempt. "Their actions will never break the spirit or diminish the compassion of the British people."

According to the Sun, the Metropolitan Police has no overall boss to deal with the aftermath of the attack. The new commissioner, Cressida Dick, does not start until 24 April and acting commissioner Craig Mackey is being treated as a "significant witness", meaning he cannot be involved with the investigation. The paper says it is understood he saw some of the outrage close to the force's new HQ near Westminster Bridge. A source tells the paper: "The timing couldn't be worse."

The Daily Express says plans for the Queen to open the force's new HQ today have been cancelled.