HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
The tragic murder of Jo Cox, Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, has shocked the nation.
Along with all MPs, I was stunned to learn that a young woman should lose her life going about the kind of routine constituency business which all MPs do week in, week out.
Evident in the recall of the House of Commons, Parliamentarians have a strong sense of collegiate loyalty – rarely as palpable as it is now.
Jo will be remembered as a brave campaigning politician with deep convictions, who won respect from both sides of the house in a short period of time.
More importantly still, her untimely death is heart-breaking for her husband and two young children who will forever bear the pain of growing up without their mother’s love and kindness.
This horrific crime was senseless, and attempts to explain or rationalise it as being about political views or topical debates risk masking the routine dangers which MPs face when they encounter deranged, unstable or unpredictable individuals, as we are all bound to do.
The peaceful democracy in which we live can be shattered by a single act; our free society, where other people and public figures move and interact freely with one another, can suddenly feel remarkably fragile.
The job of an MP inevitably involves meeting and engaging with many people of all types. We frequently help constituents with difficult problems and sometimes individuals with acute mental health issues.
All MPs will have stories of dealing with consequent conflict – myself included. This is a thankfully rare, but nonetheless challenging, aspect of being an elected representative.
In the light of these horrific events, there will be calls for tougher security measures and, in some cases, those will be necessary and appropriate.
But we must take care never to change the dynamic that allows the electors and the elected to interact freely, for our democracy thrives precisely because local MPs are rooted in their communities and meet and work with those who hold them to account.
Little will console the grieving family of Jo at this time, save for pride at her achievements and the glowing tributes paid to her across politics and beyond.
Perhaps, in time, what happened will serve to remind us, in an age too ready to be cynical about politicians, that our nation’s MPs not only make great sacrifices, giving up their privacy and time with their family, in their devotion to helping those they represent, but also by being in the public eye, make themselves vulnerable.
I am certain that our democracy should never be cowed by such acts of violence, while the bond between the people and those they choose to speak for them must never be broken.