John Penrose column: Goodbye to Sir David Amess

Conservative MP Sir David Amess has lost his life after being stabbed today - October 15 - at a cons

Conservative MP Sir David Amess has lost his life after being stabbed today - October 15 - at a constituency surgery. - Credit: PA

Parliament said goodbye to Sir David Amess this week.

The murdered MP for Southend was a lovely, gentle, kind man with a perky sense of humour and endless, boundless energy for helping the people he represented in Parliament.

But it wasn’t just who he was that mattered; it is what his death means for our democracy too. Britain is averaging about one attack every five years on MPs since 2000, and a quick social media search will show you it’s the tip of an iceberg of online abuse, hate and threats that has become a routine part of our public debate. It’s particularly bad if you’re a woman or a minority, but everyone gets it (including me) and it isn’t just MPs in Parliament either; Councillors in Town Halls are increasingly on the receiving end too.

It shouldn’t be this way. We have to be able to agree to disagree politely and respectfully with our neighbours, or our friends, or our family without deciding that, just because someone has reached a different but deeply-held view from us, that somehow makes them evil, or dishonest, or less than us. Otherwise things will never improve.

That was the message from every MP and every Peer in the House of Lords, in every political Party, as we remembered Sir David. And then, on a sombre and grey autumn day with dead leaves falling from the trees, we processed slowly across the road to Parliament’s parish church, St Margaret’s that’s built right next to Westminster Abbey, for a remembrance service.

But then, at the end, a remarkable thing happened. We stood for the first hymn, and it turned out that Parliament can sing. Not the quiet and slightly-embarrassed mumbling you get in some services, but a loud, joyful, beautiful sound instead. All of us, together, in tune and in harmony, singing for David. If only our politics was always like that.

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