Last week was a shocking and sobering one at Westminster. For years we have been told grimly by those in charge of security that, however good our police and intelligence services are, it was a question of when, not whether, a terrorist attack would succeed. We have now seen that happen.
As so often happens, extreme circumstances bring out the best in people. Not just those immediately involved, such as my colleague Tobias Ellwood, who ran towards danger to try to help the police officer who had been stabbed, but from millions more who took the collective decision to carry on with their normal lives in the following days. This is always the best riposte to terrorists and their sick ideology. Britain is a mature democracy and will not panic in the face of violence.
Of course the person who has rightly received the most tributes is Keith Palmer, the police officer who was standing at the gates of Parliament, and who was murdered doing his duty. Words are not adequate to express the gratitude we should all feel to officers like him who put themselves in the way of danger every time they start a shift.
What we can do, in practical terms, is to support the police in their work. So I thought it was particularly timely that on Friday I could spend some time helping Kent Police in their recruitment drive for various types of voluntary support in Ashford.
The best-known and most traditional way of voluntary help comes through the Police Specials, who are unpaid but act the same as regular officers. Many people these days use this as a route into regular full-time police work, but others still do it as a public service on top of their normal work.
These days there are other ways of providing support. Police Volunteers are an increasingly important part of the police family, and this involves helping in a range of back office jobs. This is course releases regular officers to work on the streets directly fighting crime, so is a hugely useful service.
The final type of recruitment in Ashford on Friday was for the new Police Cadets. This allows 13-18-year-olds to have their first taste of police work, giving them both some useful ways to expend energy and to let them see if they want to continue.
It is possible to apply learn more about all of these on the Kent Police website, so if you are interested, do get in touch with them.