It has happened again, and everything about it is so horribly, agonisingly familiar. An MP killed in his constituency. A father-of-three this time, popular amongst MPs of all parties and known for his kindness in the House, murdered just doing his job.
All good MPs understand that constituency work is why they are in office. It’s where they see the mum with the disabled child who needs to be rehoused, or the dad whose benefits have been cut, and where elderly folk come to chat over tea and a hobnob.
It’s where MPs meet ‘real people’, unfiltered by aides or interest groups. It’s where democracy is enacted.
But it’s more than that too. Constituency work is where our representative democracy is seen to happen, the human interface between an anonymous ‘X’ on a ballot paper and actual power.
New safety measures are needed to keep MPs safe, but they must fall short of locking MPs behind glass. Not only would this allow violence to triumph, it would also heighten the growing distance and disdain ordinary people feel for politicians.
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Instead, we need a sea change in how we interact. We all have a responsibility to dial down the rage. On social media, in our everyday interactions, in what we publish or say in Parliament. We have to learn to disagree better.
For a moment, watching the news break, like many others who knew Jo Cox better than me, I was back watching the England-Wales game in 2016, seeing a text message that an MP had been shot and stabbed in Birstall. I knew that meant only one thing, my friend Jo.
What has happened since has been an extraordinary effort by her family and friends to work to bring communities together – including our own project Britain Talks.
Even among those who, like me, disagreed with David’s views, he was known for his personal kindness. I know that those who loved David will want, in the coming months, to build a positive legacy in his name.
Kindness must be at the heart of that legacy. For democracy to function, violence can never, ever win.Read More Read More