Jo Cox was a great woman, an effective Parliamentarian, a committed constituency MP, a loving wife and mother, and a friend to so many people. Her murder has shocked us all, and our sympathy is with her family, staff, colleagues and friends.
The analysis and search for an explanation for what happened continues, with much reflection about the corrosive nature of our polarised political environment; the impact of a social media sphere where racism, sexism, homophobia and hate speech run unchecked; and of course the charged atmosphere around the European referendum.
None of these explanations will change the tragic reality that Jo Cox was killed doing her job. And this will have a special significance to readers of W4MP. Today, and next week, and the week after, many of you will be helping run constituency surgeries, playing your part in one of the most important aspects of our parliamentary democracy and keeping MPs involved in the lives of those they represent.
We all have the right to work without feeling threatened, and nobody involved in the work of Parliament should have to feel that they are taking a risk as they go about their job. Jo Cox was attacked on her way to her surgery, and whatever we may wish, it’s clear that MPs and their staff do face real risks of harrassment and potential violence.
It’s not enough to offer advice on office security, though the measures recommended by the Police and Serjeant at Arms are sensible and well-considered. Nor is it acceptable to say to people who work for MPs that such risks ‘go with the territory’ – because they don’t, and we can never allow them to be normalised.
Physical violence is one end of a spectrum that begins with insults and threatening language or behaviour, and we need to demonstrate that even this is unacceptable, that it will not be tolerated or normalised or ignored, but will be challenged and exposed and stopped.
At w4mp we can help to share stories, and perhaps begin to push back against the intolerance and anger that has infected political discourse and the lives of those engaged in politics – on whatever side of the debate.
One way to begin is to talk more openly about what happens in your job, and perhaps share ideas about how to deal with difficult situations. We invite you to share your stories with us (email firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can post them on the site, anonymously if you prefer. It is a small thing, but a start.
And we will remember Jo Cox and celebrate her life and achievement.