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Killing of Sir David Amess a senseless act from which we must learn

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Sometimes, in this column, it really is hard to know what to say. This is one such occasion.

Not because there aren’t things to say and subjects that need to be talked about, but because what we say, and the way we say it, matters.

It matters whether it’s written or said online or offline, by a journalist or a member of the public, to the widest possible audience or to the smallest of groups.

Sir David Amess. Picture: PA (52382034)
Sir David Amess. Picture: PA (52382034)

And if we didn’t understand that before the senseless killing of Sir David Amess MP on Friday afternoon, then we damn well ought to start understanding it now.

For the second time in little more than five years, a member of our Parliament, a public servant elected by the people to serve the people, has been killed whilst going about that duty.

Back in the summer of 2016, when Jo Cox was murdered in her constituency, we were in the midst of a deeply polarising referendum campaign and many observers said there had to be a more decent way of conducting our public discourse in the light of that outrage. I have no doubt that similar sentiments will have been expressed many times between me writing these words and you reading them.

But, as you read them, ask yourself this. What, exactly, has changed? Is our society, in any way, more cohesive and more accepting of other perspectives and opinions than it was five years ago? It’s hard to see any evidence to suggest that it is. If anything, I fear things are even worse now than they were then.

And that isn’t just a comment on politics, but on life. When judges are condemned as “enemies of the people” by elements of this industry for upholding the law, something is wrong with our society. When sportsmen and women can be abused and threatened online for the colour of their skin, often seemingly with little or no consequence, something is wrong with our society. When people in this industry, and many others too, are abused and threatened online – in some cases even advised to stay away from their workplace for their own safety – for doing their job, something is wrong with our society. And when people apparently think so little of those whom they disagree with that they feel able to describe them as “scum”, something is wrong with our society.

This is not an exercise in blaming individuals or groups for where we are now, because I don’t think anyone can really claim to be blameless in this.

But it is, or at least it should be, a moment for all of us to reflect both on the senseless loss of life and how we can and should strive to right those wrongs.

Nothing can change the desperate events of Friday afternoon, or of that June evening five years ago. But they should, even now, be a line in the sand for us all to say “No more.”

We can be better. For Jo Cox, and for Sir David Amess, we simply must be.

Allister Webb

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