THIS week’s events in the House of Commons have inevitably been dominated by sadness over the murder of Sir David Amess.
As I listened to the tribute speeches in the House of Commons on Monday I had mixed feelings: it was an occasion none of us wanted and yet it showed parliament at its best.
It captured the essence of a man who was an assiduous campaigner for good causes as well as having a giant heart.
He never wanted to climb the slippery pole, preferring to throw himself into his constituency work alongside causes such as animal welfare and mental health (on which I worked closely with him).
There was no greater champion of Southend and barely a dry eye in the House when Boris Johnson announced it would finally become a city.
This championing of causes – whether national or local – was not second prize for him, it was what he loved. That is why he was such a happy person and so good to have around – indeed, you would leave every encounter with him with a smile on your face. Often he said things that were not quite politically correct – but always with a twinkle in his eye and never with any intention to offend.
What hurts so much about his death is that it happened when he was doing a job he loved so much. For that reason I think he would reject any suggestion that MPs should reduce their accessibility to constituents as a result of what happened, however horrific it was.
In his commitment to serve the people he represented, he was the very best of us. We need to find a way to do our jobs that does not undermine what he stood for.
When I heard the news I was looking at the stunning autumn colours in Winkworth Arboretum (pictured); before that I had opened school buildings at Charterhouse in Godalming and met constituents in my office in Hindhead. I went on to visit the British Heart Foundation shop in West Street in Farnham, after which I walked through the town for more meetings in the town hall. I saw the extraordinary vibrancy of our community life and the wonderful beauty of our countryside and felt privileged to represent it despite the sadness of the day.
I don’t think you can do my job without being out and about, nor do I propose to change the way I work. It would surely not be right in a democracy to make ourselves less accessible in response to terrorist threats because it would confirm a fatally flawed view of what our system is meant to do.
Politicians should be the servants of the people, not the other way round: where our system goes wrong is when elected representatives forget that and lose touch with the people who give them their jobs. Our system is far from perfect – but if we want our democracy to work better, surely this is a moment for leaders to connect better with citizens, not withdraw to ivory towers.