Sunday October 17th 2021
Sir David Amess, MP.
Written by Midlothian MP, Owen Thompson
It will be a very sombre parliament this week. The horrific murder of fellow MP Sir David Amess has shaken everyone. First and foremost our thoughts are with his family and friends in their time of grief. Losing a loved one is always tough but for it to happen in such a barbaric manner must be almost unbearable. Political differences matter not a jot at such a time. Sir David was a kind and decent man who was killed while simply doing his job.
Bringing back the memory of the brutal murder of Jo Cox just five years ago, all MPs and staff are now acutely aware that this could happen to any one of us going about our constituency business. This is an attack on democracy itself. We need politicians to remain easily available to the people they represent, but absolutely no-one should feel their lives are at risk simply by hosting an open surgery in a library or a village hall. Fear of violence and abuse has sadly become only too familiar to most of us, impacting on the wellbeing of staff as well as politicians who are only human too. This will surely narrow the range of people who choose to get involved in politics, at a time when we need to encourage people from all walks of life to participate.
In the aftermath of this latest horror it is right that we look again at security and tighten it up where we can do so, but crucially without pulling up the drawbridges. There will most likely be calls for an end to lone working and for walk-in visits to be discouraged at constituency offices. Prior to surgeries we may learn to scan the room for alternative escape routes, should an attack happen, and for alarms to be kept close at hand. I will pay attention to whatever the police advise to ensure my team are safe, but it deeply saddens me that any of it is necessary. Face to face meetings are an essential part of a healthy democracy and we cannot live in fear; nor can we allow those who instil fear to win.
Only one man was responsible for the murder of Sir David, but I think all of us owe it to his memory to reflect on the nature of political discourse and try to foster something better. Good political decisions will stem from an environment which is far less tribal, where the tone is respectful and there is recognition that no single side has all the answers. Anger is completely understandable when we see the impact of policies on people’s lives but it must be channelled constructively to bring about change and bring people with us, not put people off politics altogether. Whether in parliament, in the pub or in the murky world of social media, we need to pull back on the name-calling and abuse and create more breathing space for nuanced discussion of nuanced issues. We need to give a hearing to opposing views, listen more closely and respectfully and to be courteous when we disagree.
Of course this sort of cultural shift won’t prevent appalling, barbaric acts from deranged individuals, but it would be a fitting legacy for those who have lost their lives. We must work together to make politics better.Tweet Share on Facebook