Returning to Westminster this week after the conference season break, it’ll be a sombre place following the tragic death of Sir David Amess. Having only been elected in 2019 and lockdown intervening, I’ve never really had an opportunity to get to know him. But what little I saw was of an affable and decent man, with a touch of panache in debate. It’s a tragic loss for his family and friends.
Political disagreement’s normal and even healthy in a democracy. But political violence can never be. The issue here isn’t whether MPs should interact with their constituents because they must. It’s a necessary part of the job and the public are entitled to meet with and even buttonhole their elected representatives. The risks faced are the same as for anyone working in a public facing job whether in a shop or as a GP. Reviews will be carried out and some changes will follow but engagement there must be.
The real issue isn’t MPs surgeries but a political culture that has come about, much fuelled by social media. Online abuse has become normalised, and threats and statements are made with little or no consideration for the consequences. What’s banter to some, is the green light for a few deranged individuals. In many ways it’s a social as much as political problem but tackle it we must for all our sakes.
For there are serious issues to address. The report on Covid showed a catalogue of failings by the UK Government. It reminded me that as countries around the world were locking down, life was going on as normal in London. It may have been the blitz spirit for some, but it proved catastrophic for many who paid the price. No wonder friends in Ireland were telling me that their Government didn’t know whether to laugh or cry?
The Scottish Government isn’t absolved from responsibility either. Scotland performed better in comparison to the Tory Governments lamentable record in England. But it also needs compared not just with England but with countries such as Ireland and Denmark. In that it’s found wanting.