Reid calls for unity against terrorism

People should go about their daily lives in the wake of today’s thwarted terror plot to ensure those responsible do not win, the police have urged.

Scotland Yard deputy commissioner Paul Stephenson said that people must “keep this in perspective and go about our daily business, otherwise we lose”.

He was speaking after police announced they had foiled a terror plot to blow up several planes bound to the US from Britain. Twenty-one people are currently being held in custody and the country’s threat level has been raised to critical – its highest level.

Cobra, the cabinet’s terrorism committee, met last night and early this morning to discuss the situation. Tony Blair, who is on holiday in the Caribbean, has been in contact and has also been briefing US president George Bush.

Speaking to reporters this lunchtime, home secretary John Reid said the political establishment was “completely united” in backing the security services in their anti-terror efforts.

And he urged the British people to support the “common cause” in rejecting terrorism, saying that everyone, whether Muslim or Christian, black or white, was under threat.

“We are involved in a long, wide and deep struggle against very evil people. It is not a case of one civilization or one people against each other,” Mr Reid argued.

He added: “All the people of this country, from every racial background and ethnic background, have a common threat against them from terrorism.

“Terrorists don’t general terrorists will massacre or murder anyone who stands in their way. On the basis of that common threat and our common values I am sure we have a common purpose to assist the police in their inquiries.”

Transport secretary Douglas Alexander, who this morning ordered all UK airports and airlines operating in the country to step up their security measures, added: “There is a need for us to work and stand together in the hours and weeks ahead.”

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague gave his support to the decision to raise the threat level to critical, telling BBC News 24: “This is a very serious situation.

“For our part we applaud the work done so far by the police and security services and we are fully behind them. The government is right in taking the precautionary measures that it did.”

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael said the government had “acted properly” to what was perceived to be an immediate and serious danger.

“Security must be the primary consideration, but the government must also be mindful of the need to achieve the earliest return to normality for the aviation industry and the economy,” he added.

Stewart Hosie, home affairs spokesman for the Scottish National party (SNP), praised the security services, saying they had carried out a “diligent, professional, intelligence-led operation”.

“The police and intelligence services should be congratulated on their swift response to the threat. This foiled attack illustrates the need for constant vigilance in particular at a time of international crisis in the Middle East,” he said.