Sir David Amess was a Tory which does not mean that I either did or should have hated him. There are many Tories that I do loathe and despise but he was never one of them. He’d been around for a long time and was definitely a part of the one Nation Tory Party that is clearly in retreat.
But even if he was a Tory (or member of any other Party) that I did loathe he did not deserve to die whilst carrying out his Parliamentary duties as a Constituency Member. Every day 650 MPs and about 20,000+ councillors in the UK put themselves about in their wards and constituencies. We do this to listen to people, understand situations and to help people.
Today I and my Church Ward colleagues spent 4 hours at our advice centre in the open air at the Allerton Road Market. We do that every month and make sure people know how to contact us so that we can be an active part of our community. We had a large number of queries about local issues, a lot of comments about the problems that Liverpool is facing and just one or two problems to deal with.
When we go out and talk to people (I knocked at 750 doors in the ward in August alone) we get told two things. Firstly, that we are the only people who ever come round if there is no election on and secondly that people appreciate our presence and know how to contact us should they need to.
That is how politics should be. Democracy cannot function unless there is a regular interchange between electors and elected. We need to listen to and be held accountable by the people that for us and by the people who choose not to vote for us. How can we speak with authority about key issues if we do not listen to the real concerns of people that we represent?
Too many elected representatives already only turn out at election time because they are either lazy or because they are in a safe seat or both. They take the electorate for granted and inhabit the Chamber in Parliament or Council as if that is where the real politics take place. It isn’t. Real politics starts in the community. Our services get delivered street by street and community by community.
People know what is happening to them as a result of the policies of those they have elected. On a day-by-day basis they benefit from or suffer from those decisions. Zoom chats, Twitter and leaflets are a good way of keeping in touch. I use them all, but they are not an alternative to face-to-face interactions.
To go a step further officialdom can never solve all the problems of a community. The public sector must provide a set of basic services but then the community should come into action to supplement those services. It’s such actions by millions of volunteers that make our society liveable. The people who run the churches, the mums and dads who keep the football leagues going, the specialist charities who run the hospices and the medical support groups, the people who staff the charity shops, the reading schemes and the school governing bodies the ‘Friends’ of the Parks.
All these people and many, many more provide the services that we benefit from. They do it to benefit others, but they do it to benefit themselves as well. Volunteering is good for the volunteers as well as for the obvious beneficiaries.
That’s why we must react but not over-react to the death of Sir David Amess. Every elected representative must consider carefully the safety aspects of what we do not only for our sakes but for our staff and the other people with which we interact in public and semi-public activities.
But we must not retreat into isolation. To do so would be to strike at the heart of due democratic function and would mean that ‘they’ have won. They being the people who are unable to reason, swallow extremist filth and peddle misinformation on Twitter and Facebook.
Today our residents came up to us and thanked us for our work, thanked us for being available especially the day after the Amess tragedy. One even gave us a donation as a sort of tribute. Neither we nor any other councillor or MP should stop our proper community interaction, Nor will we.
Liverpool Lib Dems suspended our campaigning for three Liverpool Council by-elections this weekend. We did it out of respect for a fallen colleague. Albeit from another Party but who simply wanted to look, listen and learn,
David Amess we salute you. We grieve alongside your family, friends and Party. Then from Monday onwards we will back to work disagreeing thoughtfully and civilly with each other, seeking common ground when we can and opposing each other when we must. That’s democratic politics and that’s what our Country needs more of today than for many a long year.