Like many up and down the country, I have been shocked and upset by the senseless murder of Jo Cox; a promising, young MP trying her best to serve her local community and do good for people here and aboard.
On a long train journey back to London today, as I listened – teary eyed – to live radio coverage of a vigil for the Labour MP, I began to think of my own local Member of Parliament.
James Brokenshire has been MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup since 2010. It’s a safe Tory seat – a majority of more than 15,000 at the last General Election. He’s also not just a backbencher but a government minister (currently with the Immigration brief). So you may think he’d be a self-serving, arrogant, aloof, pompous old git; rarely seen out and about helping his local constituents. But that’s not been my experience.
In the run-up to the last General Election in May 2015, my busy press office job meant I wasn’t able to attend the local Church Hall hustings event. So, I messaged James on Twitter (as well as the Labour and Lib Dem candidates) and, rather to my surprise, after a brief exchange of direct messages, 24-hours later he paid me a personal visit and sat on my sofa and talked to me over a cup of tea.
As my mum stood a few feet away doing the ironing, and my dog slept on the rug, I chatted to my local MP about the issues I cared about, and explained why I was still undecided over who to vote for. We disagreed on issues, and he did his best to convince me of his position. But we had a grown up healthy discussion and I came away with a lot of my misconceptions about politics changed forever. And a great deal of respect for my local representative.
He didn’t come in an armoured car, there was no police or security escort. He had driven himself, straight from presenting awards at local businesses event. He looked tired, with the toll of relentless election campaigning showing, but he still made the effort to come to see me. Me, someone who he didn’t know, had never met and had no way of knowing what my motivations were.
The murder of Jo Cox is a shocking and despicable crime and a tragedy for her family and a loss to our democracy. But, what I believe would be equally tragic, would be if her death meant the end of the people of this country having direct and honest access to those we elect to represent us.
Let’s continue to hold them to account, challenge their decisions and tell them when we think they’re wrong; but let’s also take a moment to say thank you for their public service. And hope that after the shock subsides, we don’t let hate and fear change the nature of our democracy forever. KB.
You can donate to a fund raising money in memory of Jo Cox here.
You can thank your local MP on Twitter using the hashtag #ThankYourMP.