The death of Labour MP Jo Cox has shocked not only the world of politics in which she worked, but also the British nation as a whole. The horror of what happened in the town of Birstall last Thursday will be a permanent scar for the MP’s family and is something they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.
But what does it mean for the relationship between MPs and the general public? Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who has himself received death threats, lamented the influence of social media in relations between the public and MPs, criticising the “vitriol” that is often expressed towards politicians. I for one agree with him. Whilst our elected representatives’ role in public life is such that they are very much open to criticism, that criticism should be constructive and measured, and it should be expressed with politeness. It should not be unjust or whimsical, and it should not be expressed with any degree of hatred or be threatening in any way. Politicians have the right to do their job in safety and without abuse. Isn’t that the legal right of every worker? Why should politicians be any different?
Very few politicians are actually in the job to make people worse off or to act selfishly. They are in politics because they genuinely want to make a difference. Yes, there will be bad apples in there; just like there is in any walk of life. But as with any bad apple, we need to pray for them and we need to trust that our peaceful system of democracy will ultimately win the day.
The hate directed at poor Jo Cox as she walked through her constituency last week was of the worst kind. It took her life and has thus caused immeasurable pain to her family, friends and colleagues. But underneath all of that is an unhealthy undercurrent of hate and cynicism which exists throughout our country and is often directed at many in officialdom, including politicians. This is especially the case on social media, where the abuse and hatred spewed forth has the potential to fuel the anger in certain individuals predisposed to dangerous actions.
Jesus Christ called us to love all people; even those that we perceive to be our enemies. Our politicians need our support and prayers. They work in an incredibly testing environment in which they are under increasing fear for their own safety and wellbeing.
May the sad and unnecessary passing of Jo Cox herald a change in attitude across our nation so that we come together as one, and in a spirit of brotherly love may we work with and support our politicians in striving for peace, equality, tolerance and prosperity for all people.