One of my many kind correspondents this week, a teacher, explained how in her politics class she sets out a line of politics from one far extreme to the other. Having done so she then draws a circle around the centre of that line within which pretty much every MP and every mainstream U.K. political party resides. The message is clear – we are actually very close. There may, rightly, be passionate debates about how to achieve our goals but the desire to do better for those we represent and society as a whole unites everyone who serves within the Commons.
Some of the deepest friendships and bonds of respect cross the floor of the Commons. No individual or political party has a monopoly of wisdom and we not only “talk” but engage together not just inside but (far more) outside the chamber of the Commons. When we meet together as we did on Monday to pay tribute to our colleague and friend and to remember him in St Margaret’s Church we did so together and as one.
David Amess was hugely loved. He was one of the kindest most decent of people. He passionately believed in causes but the way he advocated them did not offend, it won support. I never heard him say an unkind word of anyone, nor anyone of him. He and his gentle and genuine interest in others including all his colleagues, will be very much missed.
He was attacked doing his job of public service. MPs are very conscious that the same is true of many others physically and verbally every day. The police, ambulance and mental health workers, doctors’ receptionists, shop workers, public transport workers, teachers. Surely we can do better.
There has been much debate about the impact of social media on our public discourse and how it risks denigrating and debilitating people and democracy and providing a backdrop for much worse. My instincts have always been to leave well alone but the more I have seen the impact on young people; the more I have become aware through my Defence role of the way foreign states and their proxies set out with huge determination to undermine our trust in each other through this means; the more I get told by good people that they would never dream of seeking elected office because of the anonymised personal abuse that goes with it: the more I am driven to ask what we can do to change the nature of the debate. The owners of these sites make billions surely, again, we can do better while retaining our freedoms of expression and debate which we hold so dear.