Political debate has become too hostile

In the first of a new local MP’s column, Enfield North MP Feryal Clark reacts to the horrific killing of a fellow parliamentarian

Enfield North MP Feryal Clark (credit parliament.uk)
Feryal Clark was elected the new Labour MP for Enfield North in December 2019 (credit parliament.uk)

Democracy is incredibly precious, and it is the duty of all of us to protect it.

Democracy is not something we can rely on, and bank as a buffer against the ills of the world. It is a fragile framework that continues to come under constant threat, and we must renew our efforts to protect it.

The tragic killing of Sir David Amess MP at a constituency surgery has been made more difficult to comprehend because it was not just a senseless act of violence, but an attack on the democratic system that is the very fabric of British politics.

David, like so many of my colleagues in parliament on that Friday afternoon, was out in his local community speaking to constituents and helping them with the problems they faced. He was simply doing his job.

I saw first-hand the warmth that endeared David to so many on one of my first days in parliament. Looking lost with my new lanyard on, David not only asked how I was settling in, but encouraged me to join his APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on the Olympics and Paralympics and take an officer role.

David was consistently encouraging and positive and would without fail smile and say hello every time I bumped into him in parliament. Coming just five years after the murder of Jo Cox, David’s death serves as a reminder of just how fragile our democracy is in the UK.

MPs being able to go out into the communities that we represent and speak to our constituents face-to-face is an absolute cornerstone of the democratic process. It is the fact that David was killed performing this vital duty that has made his death so difficult to comprehend for so many.

While the horrific act that took David’s life may seem far removed from our daily lives, it is the stark reality of what can happen when our politics becomes so hostile.

Every death threat, every intimidating message, every unpleasant insult; they all contribute to the degrading of our public discourse. The words of Jo Cox of “more in common”, now immortalised inside the chamber of the House of Commons, must ring as true now as they ever have done.

Robust, passionate debate is a crucial part of politics, and no-one should seek to dilute or detract from it. But the spirit of such debate is what can and must change.

We must do more to not just acknowledge the perspective of our political opponents, but to engage with it and learn from each other. One of David’s greatest strengths as an MP was his collegiate nature, constantly reaching across the floor, willing to work with anyone on the issues that mattered to him and his constituents.

That is what endeared him to so many, and why his legacy will have such a lasting impact in Southend, parliament, and beyond. In David’s memory we should all strive to protect our fragile democracy and make politics a kinder place.

Feryal Clark is the Labour MP for Enfield North. If you are a constituent you can get in touch with her by phone or email:
Call 0208 804 4543
Email [email protected]