October 20th, 2016

Kenilworth and Southam MP’s thoughts on Jo Cox and EU Referendum

Kenilworth and Southam MP’s thoughts on Jo Cox and EU Referendum Kenilworth and Southam MP’s thoughts on Jo Cox and EU Referendum

On Monday I sat with hundreds of my fellow Members of Parliament of all parties to listen to the tributes to our late colleague Jo Cox.

I didn’t know Jo, she had been an MP for a little over a year, but it is clear from what so many have said about her that she was a remarkable woman.

For all MPs sitting in the Chamber of the House of Commons, as we cried and laughed at others’ memories of her, we felt the impact of her death more keenly because she did the job we do and because she did it the way we all aspire to.

She was a good example, and far from the only example, of positive politics – of using political office to do the right things for the right reasons.

I think we have never needed that example more. Politics is, and always was, a rough business.

I have no complaint about that.

Those who promote themselves as worthy to make decisions on behalf of others should expect to be challenged robustly on the way they intend to do it and on their capacity to do the job they are applying for.

Issues like Britain’s future, in or out of the European Union matter hugely to all our futures and people are entitled to hold strong opinions and to express them accordingly.

Nobody should have expected the referendum campaign to be anything other than hard fought and divisive – dividing families and friends as well as political parties.

What perhaps we did have a right to expect though was a more respectful tone to that campaign, on both sides.

This isn’t Dave ‘v’ Boris, it’s Britain – in or out of the European Union.

It is not about who the next Prime Minister will be (that’s what General Elections are for), it’s about where the country that Prime Minister leads sees itself in the world.

Let me be clear – much of the blame should fall on us politicians, but others should consider their responsibility too.

Most political messages reach the electorate through a media filter, and just as no politician is all hero or all villain, as they are often portrayed in the media, so no political argument worth making is without complexity, nuance or weak points and is seldom best expressed in a soundbite.

Sadly there seems little tolerance for the expression of those arguments any other way at the moment, and that is particularly problematic when we all have to take a decision as difficult as confirming or rejecting our membership of the European Union where, despite what you’ve heard many claim, the good arguments were not all on one side.

I find that is often the case – it’s why making political decisions is never as easy as it looks.

I have always believed too that it isn’t necessary to doubt someone’s motives in order to disagree with their conclusions. There has been far too much of that in this European Referendum debate and, as that issue is now resolved and Jo Cox is laid to rest, we should all keep in mind her comment, made in her maiden sSpeech to the House of Commons and often quoted this week – that there is much more that we have in common than that which divides us.

We have all been conscious that Jo’s death is not just a public event it’s a private tragedy.

It was truly heart-breaking to hear her three and five-year-old children in the public gallery of the House of Commons as the tributes were paid on Monday.

I hope it won’t be long before they understand how proud they can and should be of their mother but I hope too that it won’t be long before more of us can be proud of our politics in general.

Jeremy Wright

Kenilworth and Southam MP