Lord Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, if I can just say first of all it has been such a pleasure for both my wife and myself to be able to meet you all this afternoon and we are hugely grateful to you for giving up your precious time to come here. My wife and I have been greatly moved by what we have seen today of how, in the face of the most painful of tragedies, the people of Manchester, of all ages, have responded so magnificently.
No-one should have to suffer the losses which you have endured; yet no-one, surely, could have endured them with greater fortitude.
Even amid the unimaginable horror of that attack, with the killing of innocent children, we saw outstanding examples of incredible courage – the emergency workers who tended the wounded; the injured victims who thought only of others, not themselves; the homeless people who, to help their fellow-citizens, ran not away from danger, but towards it; the taxi drivers who offered free rides; the restaurateurs who handed out food; the Manchester Islamic High School children who delivered flowers the morning after.
In the aftermath, we have watched with mounting admiration as those of all faiths and none have refused bitterness, and embraced belonging. After many years of working to encourage people of different faiths to value one another, I cannot tell you how touched and heartened I and others have been by the way members of our faith communities have reached out and embraced each other in our common grief. In all this, Manchester is an example to the world.
Despite the greatest sorrow, this city has shown a greatness of heart and of spirit which has earned the admiration of us all. You have been done the most unbearable wrong. But in the way in which you have borne it, you have done justice to everything that is finest in our society. Much has been said of how Manchester has always been famous for making things: from manufacturing to music. Perhaps you will permit me to add one more thing to the list – you have made us proud. That is why I wanted to come here today: to express that pride publicly and to pay tribute to your resilience.
The appalling evil which was manifested here struck at all that is most precious: family, friendship, freedom, faith. It did so in a place devoted to music; that international language which celebrates and enriches life and which is so much a part of the life of this great city. But you have not been silenced; you have met sorrow with solidarity; discord with harmony. You are a shining example to the world at-large of how mercy and compassion will always triumph over hate and division.
You are not "looking back in anger", but looking resolutely forward, knowing that what you have suffered will only make you stronger and all the more determined to succeed as an international city that welcomes people from all over the world. It is little wonder that young and old, you came out on to the streets to proclaim, "We love Manchester".
I know, too, that even as Manchester earned the respect of all for its response to the events which took place here, its people are feeling deeply with their fellow citizens in London who, over the past weeks and months, have faced their own grievous ordeals. Only last Wednesday, at Finsbury Park, I met some of those affected by the terrible events there, and was deeply impressed with the way they had responded with restraint, with faith and with humanity. A fortnight before, my wife and I had met those who were affected by the callous and cowardly attacks at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge. Their resolute endurance inspired me beyond measure, as I know it has inspired our whole country. In London and in Manchester, the message was the same – those who wish us harm do not represent any part of our society; they do not speak in the name of Faith but, through their acts, destroy its very essence; their only success will be in strengthening the spirit of communities who, in every respect, are simply better than them.
Ladies and Gentlemen, over the past few weeks our country, a "community of communities", has experienced a series of terrible trials, ranging from the acts of violence I have mentioned to the civil disaster at Grenfell Tower. Yet, throughout it all, people of every background have shown a courage, a compassion and a commitment to our common values which are worthy of our finest traditions, and which – even in the face of the greatest of challenges – we know will always prevail.
At this difficult time, our hearts are full. But our hearts remain open.