Like so many people across the political spectrum, I was profoundly shocked by the brutal murder of Sir David Amess on Friday.
I can genuinely say that he was one of the kindest and most courteous members of Parliament and it is because he always seemed so gentle and generous that his death has come as such a particular shock.
We worked closely together on supporting people with Fibromyalgia as he and I shared constituents who were at the head of the campaigning around fibromyalgia, but outside of that he was someone who was always generous with his time for constituents and colleagues alike.
In the eleven years that I have been an MP, this is the fifth serious attempt on an MPs life and the second successful one. Our politics depends on MPs being accessible and answerable to their constituents, and we all recognise that this presents risk, but I know that many think that the occasional success of these murder attempts is an inevitable consequence of the tone of our political discourse, particularly through social media.
This appalling atrocity once again presents an opportunity for us all to re-assess whether we are doing enough to ensure political disagreement doesn’t spill over into dehumanisation and violence.
The specific attempts on an MPs life have all been linked to extremism- either Islamist or far-right ideologies, which, it is worth noting, share many features.
But there are many more people who are put off engaging in our politics by the tribalist nature of much ‘debate’. Going forward, I think it is worth us all considering whether our criticisms are against the policies or even the ideological approaches of our opponents or an attempt to make wider points about personality or motive which are more likely to diminish political debate.
No political party or politician has a monopoly on virtue. It is worth reminding ourselves that in Sir David, there was a political opponent, who whilst making decisions I profoundly disagreed with, demonstrated personal characteristics which were hugely admirable.
I will try to monitor my own output and criticisms against these standards and invite my colleagues, opponents, media contributors and constituents to consider if they are doing the same.