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Opening remarks on Paris terror attacks by MEP Richard Howitt at Labour East Regional Conference

Last night, as many of us were gathering in a spirit of friendship and reunion, the television in the area downstairs revealed how people doing what we were doing - getting together to enjoy themselves in a concert hall, in a sports stadium and in restaurants - had been subject to a terrible terrorist attack.

This morning, it is right that we begin by expressing our deep sense of shock at the events of Paris, our sincere condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives and, as your Member of the European Parliament, our firm solidarity with the people of France.

The word "solidarité" is indeed a word of French origin, and never does it describe better our own feelings towards our French brothers and sisters, as it does this morning.

In my speech today, one of the things I was going to share with you was the pride I felt taking part in a spontaneous memorial in Cambridge, bringing together French expatriates and local British people, after the terrorist attack earlier this year in France on journalists and on the Jewish community.

On that occasion we held hastily made handwritten posters saying: "We are all Charlie Hebdo."

Today we say the same again.

And last night, many people had gone in to the city for a Friday evening out and were stranded there during the security operation, and you may have a seen a spontaneous call went around "porte ouverte" - for Parisians to open their doors  to those who could not get to transport home. And they did, in large numbers.

Politicians are supposed to be able to understand and explain the meaning of what is going on in society and sometimes - as with the events of last night - you find it very difficult to believe there can be any explanation of what has gone on.

But I do understand that the human reaction of Parisians to open their doors, was a very wonderful response in the midst of a very tragic event. It demonstrated compassion over fear.

Those who wage terrorist attacks want us to close doors on eachother and between ourselves and others in the world.  However, if we do so, our 'open society' is diminished and terrorism wins. The brave compassion of Parisians in the face of the terrible attack is a lesson that we can never allow our 'open society' to be destroyed.

Now, this is my annual report as your Member of the European Parliament, in which I planned to talk to you about some lessons of the General Election, from some of my work during the year in the constituency and in parliament, and to offer some thoughts about the EU referendum campaign ahead.

I will proceed with my report, but we will not forget the events in Paris and the people who suffered will stay in our memories.

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