We stand with France and GCHQ will help keep us safe

 

Last Friday's attacks in France were an assault not just on the people of Paris, but on all of us who value freedom and democracy. I am proud of the solidarity that has been shown in the UK to our French friends, including at Wembley stadium. Here in Cheltenham too, the French tricolor flew at half-mast from the Municipal Offices. It was a fitting gesture of our common humanity.

 

We will not be cowed by this threat. Nor will we compromise on our values. Instead, we must confront the threat head on.

 

And the blunt truth is that there exist homegrown, British passport-holding, extremists who have been seduced by a warped and perverted ideology. I have some experience of this. In 2013 I was part of the prosecution team that prosecuted six young British-born jihadis, five of whom had travelled to Dewsbury intending to attack a public rally with an improvised explosive device, shotguns and swords. In the event the attack was foiled and the perpetrators are now in prison. But this was not an isolated incident. Plots are thwarted regularly by our security services.

 

These cases confirm the growing role of the internet. It can radicalise young minds. It can provide terrorists with technical know-how. Increasingly it can also be a weapon in itself as terrorists seek to mount cyber attacks on key infrastructure, from power stations to hospitals.

We need to build our capability to counter that. That's why I was delighted to join George Osborne, the US Ambassador and others as further measures were announced to defend our country in cyberspace. I was pleased in particular that increased resources will be going to GCHQ to support those who work with such ingenuity and integrity to keep us safe.

 

Moving away from national security, I warmly welcomed this week the announcement that Cheltenham has won the race to become one of just two national 'Cyber Innovation Centres'. Creating a local tech hub here in Cheltenham is a vision I have long championed. Now that hard work lobbying behind the scenes has paid off.

 

This initiative will help create what I have long called for: a digital ecosystem here in Cheltenham in which our best people move in and out of institutions like GCHQ, bringing the best minds and deepest expertise into the private sector, and the latest innovation back into government. It will support the cyber start-ups of the future and bring jobs, investment and opportunity to our town. It is an incredibly important moment for Cheltenham.

 

But the final word must go to the French victims of this atrocity and their families. We stand with you. Cheltenham stands with you. Vive La France.