Everyone has been shocked by the horrific killing yesterday of Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire. I offer my deepest condolences to her family. She was a wife and a mother to two young children, and few of us can begin to imagine the pain which they will feel at having lost her in such gruesome circumstances.
But what makes her death all the more poignant is that she was killed while undertaking her constituency duties as an elected representative. I can't claim to have known Jo Cox and I dare say she and I would have found much on which to disagree - but that is the essence of the democratic system in which we are privileged to operate: accepting the mandate of those elected to public office and seeking to persuade them of an alternative point of view when we differ, conducting those disagreements robustly yet respectfully.
Yesterday's events have not only united in grief those of all parties and none, but also doubtless unnerved politicians (and their families), virtually all of whom make a point of being highly accessible to the constituents they serve. It would only compound the tragedy of what happened yesterday if it resulted in our elected representatives being harder to reach or becoming more remote.
And as we mourn the loss of Jo Cox, it is also an appropriate moment to acknowledge the sacrifices that parliamentarians across the board make in the course of contributing to public life. It is appalling beyond words that one of their number should have had to give her life while undertaking her duties. May the values of democracy, freedom and accountability always triumph over those of violence, hate and terror.
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