It seems only a few moments ago that I was sitting on the Commons terrace – only a couple of stone’s throws away from Westminster Bridge, where today’s terror attack seems to have begun – having a quiet drink and catch up with Tobias Ellwood. He is a former colleague, though our paths seldom crossed when we were there together. He entered Parliament five years later than me, in 2005.
He was – as is often the case for MPs – between votes, with half an ear out for the ringing of a division bell, but with all his energy and enthusiasm concentrated on what he was telling me. He was then the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the Middle East, and gave me a fascinating account of what a relatively junior minister can try to do to help nudge Israelis and Palestinians just a little nearer a settlement: uphill work, to say the least.
Over a year later, with the Prime Minister who first appointed him gone (David Cameron) and another now in place (Theresa May), Ellwood is still there. Today, he is reported to have tried to give a dying policemen mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and to stem blood loss by applying pressure to the wounds. Photographs show him with blood on his face amidst a crowd of parademics.
Ellwood will inevitably now be described as a hero, and the praise is deserved, but he will doubtless shrug it off, and insist that he was only doing his duty. One of the Conservative Parliamentary Party’s sizeable band of former army officers, he served with the Royal Green Jackets, where he will presumably have learnt the first aid training that he applied this afternoon.
There is a tragic family connection with terrorism. His brother, Jonathan, was murdered in the Bali bombing in 2002. There is a memorial to the victims in St James’s Park, near the foot of the Foreign Office where Ellwood works, with which he will be deeply familiar. Today, he did what his character and training led him to do. Tomorrow, he will dust himself down, and carry on. He will continue to serve as a Minister for a good while yet.