Dear Reader: Death of Jo Cox and the EU vote

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

A regular column by Graham Chalmers of the Harrogate Advertiser

It must say something about the human condition that tragedy often brings out the best in people.

The horrific shootings at an Orlando nightclub may have happened 4,245 miles from North Yorkshire but in today’s global 24/7 news culture it felt a lot closer.

In this district, Harrogate’s LGBT youth group sent its ‘thoughts and support’ to the victims.

In Ripon, a young a Ripon project worker for Barnardos organised a candlelit vigil at Ripon Cathedral.

Amid the shock and grief last week at the dreadful killing of Jo Cox MP at her own ‘surgery’ in her own constituency, there seemed to be an almost seismic force for good at work in its aftermath.

Even Parliament became a peaceful place.

Our story in this edition shows how Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones paid his own tribute to this inspirational figure by pledging to continue to hold his surgeries as normal.

Jo herself would probably have been impressed by that.

From what I’ve read about this “good samaritan for the 21st century”, Jo didn’t strike me as someone likely to avoid a fight when it was a cause she believed in.

The one thing she ultimately would not tolerate was intolerance.

Call me a bit of an oddball but I’ve been fascinated by politics from an early age.

One of my happiest memories of my late father is sitting with him each Sunday lunchtime in the mid-1970s watching ITV’s political show Weekend World when interviewer Brian Walden would subject some major politician or another to a ruthless grilling until a little of the truth slipped out.

At that point I was too young to actually vote, which was as frustrating to me as appearing on the show must have been for Walden’s poor victims.

Since then I’ve voted in ever single election without fail, partly from the thought there’s no point being a member of a club if you never avail yourself of its facilities.

The 1997 election found me inside Harrogate International Centre watching as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont crashed and burned having been parachuted in to a, supposedly, safe seat.

In 1992 I even found myself driving around Harrogate at 6am dropping off bundles of this newspaper’s special General Election Results Supplement at various news outlets and petrol stations in the morning of John Major’s victory.

So I must say I’m looking forward to voting in today’s EU Referendum.

It’s a big decision, perhaps a bigger one than we realise.

When Scotland was granted its first referendum on devolution in the 1970s, life at my secondary school came to a halt to hear the result announced.

I’d been too young to vote but would definitely have marked a cross for ‘yes’ had I been given the chance.

With independence now a thorn in the side of the whole of Great Britain, I’m really not so sure anymore.