Grantham Journal Column: A wonderful person doing something wonderfully ordinary
One week ago, Jo Cox walked across the road in the small market town of Birstall towards the library where she, like her predecessors before her, held surgeries as the MP for Batley and Spen.
She never made it to the library that day. She was murdered, brutally and in broad daylight, doing the job that she loved, serving the people she had been elected to represent.
I did not know Jo. We smiled at each other in the corridor a few times but never had a conversation. And in many ways we were opposites: she a Labour woman of 5’1”, and me a Conservative man of 6’6”.
But the strange truth about Parliament is that, to use Jo’s own words, MPs “have more in common than the things that divide us.”
We are all fuelled by a strange combination of personal ambition and political belief. We all want to change the world and make a difference. We are all willing to expose ourselves to public criticism and even abuse. We all get intense satisfaction from meeting constituents at our surgeries and doing what we can to help them sort out problems in their lives.
The day after Jo’s murder I met up with my team and we had lunch in Grantham town centre. Quite a few people noticed we were there and smiled, or said hello.
Of course we need to think hard about the security of MPs and those who work with them. And we will take sensible precautions under advice from the police. But I believe it is vitally important that MPs are accessible and approachable, that anyone can book an appointment to meet me in one of my regular surgeries, or stop me in the street when they see me walking around town.
The more I learn about Jo Cox the more I realise what a remarkable person she was. But in crossing the road in Birstall that fateful day she was doing something wonderfully ordinary.
Like the police men and women who patrol our communities unarmed, like the firemen and women who risk their own lives to keep ours safe, Jo Cox was doing her duty.
The best way for other MPs to honour her memory is to go on doing exactly the same.