Like many people across the country, the tragic and senseless murder of Sir David Amess on Friday shook me to the core. I knew Sir David well. He was an exceptionally kind man. Incredibly funny, great company, and a dedicated public servant. He had been an MP for almost 40 years, and in that time had tirelessly campaigned for his constituents. His loss is immeasurable, and my thoughts and prayers remain with his family.
In politics, a lot is made of what divides us. Every MP gets into politics because they think they can make a difference, and our collective passion and drive to make the world a better place often leads to very public disagreements with colleagues. There is no better demonstration of this than at weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, where parliamentarians assemble to thrash out the issues of the day. It is impassioned, sometimes heated, and always dramatic, but it is also essential to a functioning democracy. It is a privilege to stand up in the House, as an elected official, and represent your constituents and your convictions.
But when PMQ’s finishes, we all shuffle out of the chamber and chat to friends and colleagues as in any other workplace. We ask how the kids are doing, we discuss our plans for the weekend, we understand that even though we may be politically divided, we are united by our shared humanity.
This is something my colleague Jo Cox understood. She too was tragically snatched away from us just five years ago. When she was first elected, Jo gave her maiden speech, and her message that we have ‘more in common’ than that which divides us is still as relevant today as it was then.
We must be kinder to one another; we must create a better and healthier political culture. Every morning I wake up and feel lucky to represent the people of Tameside, and a part of Stockport too. I feel immense pride when I raise issues that local people have come to me with, and there is no better feeling than making a difference for the place that you call home. I know that those feelings are shared by the overwhelming majority of MPs, and that simple fact is all too often forgotten in the rough and tumble world of politics.
So, how do we move forward from this brutal and desperately sad event? How do we protect our democratic institutions from attacks and intolerance that undermine it? I find myself turning to the words of Sir David’s family, who yesterday released a statement that says it better than I ever could; “whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand…please let some good come from this tragedy”.