Much has been said about the death of Sir David Amess MP, but it is the anecdote from his former researcher that perhaps best serves as a fitting epitaph.
“Early on, I was absolutely terrified we had forgotten to tell him about an urgent call from David Cameron’s office. Couldn’t have bothered him less. ‘Don’t worry about that,’ he said. That week his invitation to a local charity event in the constituency – the Leigh Duck race – went missing. Nothing was more important. We spent the entire afternoon turning the office upside down trying to find it.”
It is easy to forget the vast majority of MPs do not sit on the frontbenches, nor pine for them. Not for them climbing the greasy pole. Instead, the focus is simple: serving their constituents as well as they can, giving up their brief freedom from Westminster to host charity events, open neighbourhood shops, and listen to problems – over, and over, again.
As Boris Johnson learnt last week, even holiday scheduling is difficult. That same researcher said that when Amess found a constituent was ill, he’d spend his evenings cajoling and nagging everybody he could to try and move his constituent up the waiting list. He was a true public servant.
In the aftermath of the death of Jo Cox, politicians of all sides united to call for the temperature of our politics to be brought down a few degrees. In truth, that didn’t happen.
Brexit debates divided the country and only increased society’s polarisation, with the blame easily apportioned on both sides. Jeremy Corbyn’s toxic fellow travellers in the Labour party encouraged nothing other than hatred towards political rivals. Angela Rayner’s recent “Tory scum” comments are just one depressing example.
But perhaps too there needs to be a wider re-evaluation of our politics, and the way our MPs are treated, and how accessible we expect them to be. They are human, after all. We probably don’t say thank you enough.