A young, inexperienced MP died horribly yesterday.
I didn’t know her, never met her, had barely even heard of her, yet several aspects of this dreadful event have really stuck with me with me, and made me think a lot about the state of our Society today.
My first reflection is the fact that Jo was obviously in politics because she cared. Unlike many of our MPs, she had had a career before politics, and so had ‘found herself’; she wasn’t using her role as an MP to put herself on the map, and justify her existence. People like David Cameron, George Osborne, Peter Mandelson, Nigel Farage, even Tony Blair, none of these have known much of the real world outside Westminster, having moved from education (often in the rarified atmsopheres of private schools and ancient universities) straight to the Westminster Club, whereas Jo was on a genuine mission to make a difference, having already made a significant mark in her first career at Oxfam.
My personal view is that one shouldn’t be allowed to become an MP until one can point to real achievements in other, more tangible areas of work, but that’s by the by…
My second reflection is how Jo’s inclusive attitude to people and issues were at a stark contrast with the whole tenor of political discussion in this country at the moment, as can be seen in the debate about Europe. Next week, we will all vote whether or not to stay in the EU. Most of us will cast our votes on the basis of beliefs and emotions, largely uninformed by any real evidence, thanks to the destructive, aggressive way in which any facts and statistics have been used.
I believe (and I rather think that Jo would have agreed) that the UK lives in the ‘society’ of Europe, and that it makes no sense to drop out and abandon these old friends in the hope of finding a whole new set of allies in the broader world. It smacks of childhood fantasy to jump into a completely unknown future in the Micawber-like expectation that ‘something better will turn up’.
Moreover, the self-centred ‘me, me, me’ philosophy of the Brexiteers shames me; any balanced, successful society has to balance self interest and altruism; it’s the way we build trust, and work with others to mutual benefit. To have got this SO badly wrong smacks either of childlike selfishness and lack of understanding, or of a genuinely malevolent egotism that thinks it’s OK merely to ‘look after number 1’. The flavour and sense of Jo’s speeches, and of the way that the causes she espoused were so broad and inclusive, suggest that she might have shared this view of the politics of the referendum.
The obverse of this, the one potential silver lining to this unmitigated misery, may be that everyone involved in the current debate will now take the time to rethink their approach, and (dare one hope?) even their philosophy, so that we approach the referendum next week in a calmer, less heated way.
And of course, none of these reflections cover the human tragedy that has occurred; to see a young, vibrant, motivated, attractive, lively mother and wife, woman and campaigner, snuffed out so senselessly, makes me cry every time the thought comes back to me, and I’m a (very!) grown man….
Rest in peace, Jo, and may some good come out of the senseless waste of such a valuable life.