Andrew Jones column: Jo Cox’s death brings need for vigilance

The Funeral of MP Jo Cox.. Batley Market Place15th July 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
The Funeral of MP Jo Cox.. Batley Market Place15th July 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

It has been quite a month in politics. Unbelievable really. What else, therefore, could my regular column be about than the EU referendum and all that is happening in its wake?

As regular readers will know I voted to remain in the EU. My vote was equal to that of every other voter and my view did not prevail. I pledged to honour the result of the referendum and politicians should keep their promises. That is what I will do. Some argue for a second referendum so that people can assess again whether they made the right choice and claims made by the Leave campaign can be scrutinised. I do not support this move.

The claims of both sides were scrutinised, counter claims made, errors exposed and when it came to it, the voters made a judgment based on all of that information. Some ask me to vote in Parliament to reflect the view of this constituency which voted for Remain and not implement Article 50 – the treaty provision that triggers our exit from the EU.

If every MP ignored the referendum result and voted on Article 50 reflecting how their constituency voted then Article 50 would still be triggered as a majority of constituencies backed Leave.

This proposal does not therefore deliver what those proposing it want.

So for me, Brexit means Brexit. And we have to ensure that we make a success of it. The vote though unleashed political turmoil that has engulfed much of the last month. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, was first to go. It was certainly high drama in Westminster. As astonished MPs looked on, one contender for the top job after another bit the dust.

Campaign Boris didn’t leave the launchpad and Michael Gove’s bid soon ran in to trouble.

The Labour Leader had been gifted a golden opportunity. But then Labour imploded. It is hard to keep track of just how many resignations there were.

Some posts were filled and within hours the new occupant had resigned. Other posts still remain empty and nearly 80 per cent of Labour MPs refused to back their Leader in a vote of confidence. Never has my inbox been fuller. Constituents have been lining up to give me their thoughts.

And these thoughts have generally not been part of some standard email campaign where the sender justs clicks their mouse and an pre-prepared email is sent to me. Most of the emails and letters have been individual and often rehearsing the points I made at the beginning of this piece.

But in all of this one event stands out for me and has had its own repercussions.

That event was the murder of Jo Cox – the MP for Batley and Spen – by someone shouting nationalist slogans. The tributes to Jo were sincere and honest; her death was tragic for her family and for public life.

Jo’s murder sparked a debate about how MPs do their duties and how accessible they are to the public.

I was pleased to see that most MPs thought that the availability of elected representatives is a key feature of the role and needed to be preserved. That is very important to me.

Nonetheless, Jo’s death brought the need for vigilance to the fore. Since then, most MPs have been visited by Counter Terrorism police and had their offices, homes and activities assessed and altered. Abusive and threatening emails are now routinely acted upon by the police whereas previously they may have been written off as someone simply ‘letting off steam’.

So four weeks of tumultuous change culminated with a new Prime Minister, Theresa May. I was impressed by her comments before she entered 10 Downing Street stressing her social agenda and bringing our country back together rather than concentrating solely on Brexit. And after the drama of the last few weeks that is where we need to be again.

Thinking about how we help the less fortunate, how we support people into jobs and on to the housing ladder and address the inequalities that still exist in our country.

I believe that Members of Parliament embark on a political career whatever their political views because those are their main concerns. They are certainly mine.

In the noise and activity following the referendum it would be easy to lose sight of that and it is a great testament to Mrs May that in her first hour as Prime Minister she brought everyone back to that fundamental point.