THE DANGERS posed to politicians have been highlighted by what happened to my colleague Sir David Amess, and before him to the Labour MP Jo Cox, but this is in many ways also a dangerous time for politics itself.
As far as individual MPs are concerned, the truth is that the nature of our work has always put us at risk from those who may wish us harm, and we are not unique in that. I am grateful for all the kind messages I have received, but I have been struck too by the number of conversations I have with those in other professions for whom these concerns are sadly familiar.
I and my staff, for whose safety I also have responsibility, will change some of the things we do on police advice, and I ask for your understanding if that affects the service we are able to offer you, but the truth is that unless I am prepared to stop all meaningful interaction with those I represent, the risk cannot be eliminated, only minimised. I am not prepared to do that and I do not believe my colleagues of all political persuasions are either.
The other sad reality however is that we have heard all the expressions of determination to practice a kinder, less aggressive politics before, following the death of Jo Cox. They did not lead to lasting change, indeed you could argue that post-Brexit, post-Trump, politics on both sides of the Atlantic is as polarised, as intolerant and as nasty as it has ever been.
I have observed before that his has never been the politics I have practised and it has never seemed to me necessary to doubt the character or motives of someone in order to disagree with their arguments, but frankly I don’t feel in the majority on that. The tone of our political debate is increasingly harsh and too often just insulting, which is bad for rational argument and likely to deter good people, especially women and others in groups more often abused, from entering the debate at all. No politician is entitled to widespread admiration or respect, and criticism, including strident criticism, is a necessary part of democratic accountability, but it is hard to escape the thought that routine vilification of elected politicians is a platform on which others will build a justification for violence.
That puts our politics in peril, not just our politicians.