Today, I cried for a woman who, before today, I had never heard of, for someone from a party I have spent 6 years fighting in elections.
The murder of Jo Cox has touched many people both in her own constituency and further afield, in her own party and across all parties (& none), those who knew her and those, like me, who didn’t.
My thoughts go out to her husband, two young children and to her wider circle of friends & family. Their loss is unimaginable, made all the worse by the glare of publicity surrounding it.
As someone who stood for Parliament last year, I had hoped to be doing what Jo Cox was doing today, meeting constituents, helping them sort out problems, working to improve the lives of others. By all accounts she was very good at doing that as well as working for the causes she believed in Parliament and beginning to build a reputation as a political star for the future.
Nowhere in the job description of being an MP does it say that you could be in danger of being stabbed or shot. Yet it is a risk nearly all MPs who want to do even a half decent job of representing their constituents take every time they hold a surgery or attend a public meeting.
Last night, as it happens, I sat on the same stage as my MP, John Mann, discussing issues around the EU Referendum and the atmosphere got quite heated at times. No one was searched on the way in, no bags were checked, so any weapon could have been brought in.
Thankfully, after a lively debate, the evening ended in handshakes between all the panellists and with many of the audience. Afterwards, Mr Mann made time to discuss the possible outcomes & consequences of the Referendum with some young students and others, something I know he didn’t have to do and those who stayed behind to listen & join in were grateful to him for being generous with his time.
This is the kind access we have got used to with MPs, not just in Bassetlaw but in most constituencies, open, free and without security to get in the way. I fear today’s events in a small West Yorkshire town, along with similar attacks in the past, might start to make MPs less willing to be so open and accessible, creating a bigger divide between our elected politicians and those they represent, and that would not just be bad for our democracy but would also be an insult to the memory of Jo Cox who by all accounts enjoyed meeting the people she represented and made time for them.
What happened today in Birstall was a tragedy. A young mother, a caring person and an aspiring politician was cut down doing what she had dedicated her life to, trying to help others.
We must not let those driven by hate and anger kill our democracy as well.