The killing of Sir David Amess has utterly devastated everyone who works in and around politics. Sir David built a reputation for kindness, generosity and decency. The thoughts of everyone in the Scottish Labour Party are with his friends and family, and with his colleagues in the Conservative Party, who are hurting at this difficult time.
Sadly, this has also brought back memories of the horror of Jo Cox’s murder, just five years ago. That is not least because Sir David epitomised Jo’s belief that we have far more in common than we have that divides us—a sentiment that was repeated by the First Minister today. His dedication to public service was driven by the simple principle of helping others. The outpouring of admiration and grief in his Southend West constituency from people from diverse backgrounds shows just how much he meant to the residents for whom he campaigned so passionately. In the granting of city status for Southend, his legacy will endure for generations to come.
Sir David was killed while doing what democracy is fundamentally all about—meeting the people. We must ensure that we do not let violence and extremism win, and we must remain steadfast in our defence of the very essence of our democracy. Sir David’s killing may have been an isolated incident, but his tragic death has also shone a spotlight on the abuse, threats and danger that are faced by people in public life. It is too easy for people to think that that means just directly elected politicians. There are support mechanisms around politicians and their families, but it also means their staff, who are going about their daily work and just trying to make a difference to people. Regardless of what sector a person works in or where they work, no one should feel unsafe at their work—and no one should be killed at their work.
This moment has reminded us of the need for greater kindness and compassion in our public discourse. Yes—there is a place for disagreement and for anger in politics. We sometimes demonstrate that in this very chamber, in Westminster and in television studios. However, there is a difference between expressing disagreement and anger and letting them turn into dislike and hatred. They should never turn into dislike and hatred. Sadly, too much of our politics, particularly on social media platforms, is about othering of communities, dehumanising of individuals and creation of division. We all have a fundamental responsibility to call that out and to face it down.
In memory of Sir David Amess, therefore, and in memory of Jo Cox, we must make a firm commitment that we will never allow those who seek to divide us to win.