The senseless killing of Sir David Amess (‘Laughter, service, compassion’: MPs remember Sir David Amess, 18 Oktober) was a violent attack on democracy. It is a mistake to only see it as an act of terrorism and simply address questions of physical safety. This tragedy is not disconnected from the steady acidic drip that daily erodes democracy through insult, hate mail and threats, lying, deliberately misleading journalism, lack of accountability and abuse of power. We can take personal responsibility for the health of our democratic culture by better understanding what strengthens and protects it. Cynicism and political apathy won’t help that cause.
The tributes paid to Sir David all indicate that as an MP, and as a man of integrity, he embodied the values that we can revere and encourage in our public servants and in ourselves. They are the qualities which enhance liberal democracy.
Llandrindod Wells, Powys
So MPs are reflecting upon how they can reduce the threat of violence. What they urgently need to reflect upon, ook, is their own behaviour in the Volksraad that is broadcast to the nation.
Buite, in committees, MPs work together and generally respect each other, despite their disagreements, but what the rest of us see and hear is the formulaic, traditional cat-calling and the constant pretence that the people on the different sides are bitter enemies. MPs need to wake up, and to realise that this too-visible atmosphere of discourtesy legitimises the expression of any disagreement in terms of implacable antagonism. It makes vocal violence appear acceptable, and social media now allows this to segue into the proliferation of hate mail and death threats and, occasionally tragically, into physical violence.
Dominic Raab is right to highlight the personal threats made towards him, in going about his business as an MP. To demonise anyone – irrespective of their role in society – is unacceptable and should be met with the full force of the law. Speaking of law, it brings to mind the disgraceful demonisation of judges writ large in one rightwing newspaper’s infamous “Enemies of the people” headline of 2016. It was published in the wake of the judges’ ruling that Brexit could only be triggered by a vote in parliament; let’s not forget, a democratically elected parliament.
Op daardie stadium, one vocal critic happy to go on record in that paper about the decision was one Dominic Raab. Maar, as a former justice minister, rather than condemning such an inflammatory headline that could be said to have whipped up hatred against public servants, putting them at risk, he railed against “an unholy alliance of diehard Remain campaigners, a fund manager, an unelected judiciary and the House of Lords” who were out to “thwart the wishes of the British public”.
In short, the culture of hatred and division is allowed to take seed, grow and spread by all kinds of means. And while politicians like Mr Raab are right to call it out in the wake of Sir David Amess’s murder, they also have a responsibility to condemn vilification wherever it may appear in society; even among those you may be allied with.
More kindness in politics would be a good thing, but calls for kindness from politicians whose party has just cut benefits, throwing thousands of families into poverty, smacks of hypocrisy.