James Cleverly: Keith Palmer was murdered protecting us in Parliament, he will be deeply missed
Writing after the Westminster attack, James Cleverly remembers his friend and former comrade, killed ‘doing his duty’ and protecting Members of Parliament.
Many of us have nodded our hellos to the police officers and security staff on the parliamentary estate as we come and go. In most cases we do not know the names of the people who protect us and our guests but after the terrible events of Wednesday 22nd March the name of one of those officers has been on everybody’s lips.
PC Keith Palmer had only served here at Westminster for around a year yet had become a familiar face to us all and had a reputation for being professional, enthusiastic and friendly. This description would be of no surprise to anyone who knew him.
I first met Keith 25 years ago when he and I were both young soldiers in the South East London based HQ Battery of 100 Regiment Royal Artillery (an Army Reserve unit), he was a Gunner and I a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant.
It was clear, even in those early days, that he would be successful. He was bright, smart, fit and carried himself with self-confidence that never drifted to cockiness.
He was promoted promptly and clearly had the potential to go far but he was drawn to a career in the police and ultimately left the reserve forces to concentrate on that.
Once again Keith’s enthusiasm and professionalism stood out, he served in the Met’s Territorial Support Group which is called upon to deal with some of the most demanding and challenging police work. He gained a reputation for hard work, making over 150 arrests in one year, and was nominated for the Police Commissioner’s Excellence Awards.
Keith was as passionate about Charlton Athletic as he was about his work. It strikes me as the only obvious character flaw that he had. He was a season ticket holder and made just as much of an impact at the Valley as he did with his military and policing colleagues.
I have been asked about Keith’s family. The sad and simple truth is that I didn’t really know them, but the tributes that have been paid speak to a man as committed to his family as he was to everything he did.
Keith was murdered protecting us in Parliament. He was doing his duty as he always did with professionalism and alacrity.
He will be deeply missed by people in uniformed public service, by us all here at Westminster and by his loved ones. My thoughts are with them.