Kim’s article in the Sunday Times on October 17th.
Following the murder of Sir David Amess MP, Kim wrote:
There’s no hierarchy of grief or shock. Every member of parliament, along with many of their family, friends and constituents will be sharing the same mixture of horror and sympathy this weekend. Horror that another one of our number has been brutally killed doing that part of the job that matters more than any other, listening to and helping those we were elected to represent. Sympathy not just for David’s family and friends, but all those who worked for him or knew him. I know from my own devastating life changing experience that countless people’s lives will never be the same again as a result of David’s horrific murder.
Every MP will be reflecting too, I’m sure, on how we can continue to be available to our constituents while keeping ourselves and those around us safe. It is fundamental to our democracy that elected representatives should be as accessible as possible to the people who put them there. I’ve yet to meet an MP who doesn’t believe that strongly, not just as a point of principle but because for many of us it is the reason we went into politics in the first place.
I can understand more than most something of the sense of loss and disbelief that David’s family are confronting this weekend. More than five years after the murder of my sister, I still haven’t come to terms with it. And I doubt I ever will. So, while we hold David’s loved ones in our thoughts this weekend, we should be aware that the ramifications of what has happened will impact them on a personal level for a very long time to come.
It may be some comfort to them to know that David was doing what he loved most, listening to people and doing what he could to help them. The only reason I took the difficult decision to put myself forward for election was because I thought I could do more to help a larger number of people in this job than in any other. David himself noted that after Jo was killed the commendable British tradition that MPs could make themselves available to their constituents to meet face-to-face had to be curtailed in the name of security. Even now, we owe it to David and to all the others killed or injured in the course of their political duties, to retain as much of that personal contact as we can.
For obvious reasons, it’s not sensible to discuss in detail the precautions we already take, but from a personal perspective I can say that the West Yorkshire Police do a magnificent job keeping me and my staff safe. There are always more security measures we can look at, and we must. Parliament will no doubt be debating some of these this week.
In my view, the public have a role to play too. People have a right to ask to see their MP but I hope they also understand why it can no longer happen in the way it used to when regular constituency surgeries were open for anyone to drop in unannounced to discuss their problems.
Helping the public understand how politics works is very close to my heart. People will engage more and feel better connected the more they understand what MPs and others in public life can – and can’t – do for them.
It’s sometimes important to explain why for many issues, seeing their MP face to face may not be the most efficient way to get the help they need. It is often the fantastic staff we have who are better able to offer solutions to their problems by contacting the relevant organisations and utilising the wide network of a parliamentary office.
When it comes to visits to schools, hospitals, community projects and so much else that are a vital part of our work, these too have to be done in a way so that nobody – including our constituents themselves – is exposed to unnecessary risk. All of that requires a degree of understanding and cooperation from everybody, and I know from the many messages of support I have received that most people appreciate that.
Our democracy is precious and it has to be protected. But so does the safety and well-being of our elected representatives and their teams. For me this will sadly mean physical security measures where necessary, but above all through an understanding that we all have a part to play in being the eyes and ears of a fragile but essential system of representation and accountability that will always be vulnerable to attack but will be strengthened if we work together to defend it.