Last week’s tragic events have hit the country hard. You did not have to know David to recognise his strength of character, his generosity of spirit or his immeasurable depths of kindness. Always wearing a smile, cheerfully greeting colleagues and providing sage advice, he was unquestionably adored by family, constituents, colleagues and all those who worked on the Parliamentary estate.
I recall, after one particularly bruising debate, David making his way over to me to tell me not to lose faith, to keep plugging away. He had that sought-after knack of always saying the right thing. The loss of this great public servant will hurt for many years to come and it is likely to leave a void in Parliament where David’s good calm sense and rational engagement were so appreciated.
It is one of the unseen realities of Westminster that it is so much more consensus-based than you might ever expect. Away from the pantomime of Prime Minister’s Questions, colleagues are always working and cooperating together. Pushing, probing and exploring how to shape legislation and how to work together to make a bigger impact. In the short time since I have been elected, I have worked on no less than five major national campaigns with colleagues from across all the political parties. In the wake of last week’s events, we must seek to show people that there is far more that binds us together than divides us.
But it is not just working together behind the thick walls of Westminster and away from the television cameras. It is also about the language we use. The course of the last five years means that the country feels divided. The heightened tension and the passion felt around numerous national events have meant that frequently anger, insults and even threats become commonplace. If we want to change that then we in Westminster have to raise the standard of debate. At a time when there is so much attention given to the definition of words, it seems odd that we in Westminster are not paying more attention to the words that we are using against one another.
‘Great changes are easier than small ones’. Starting in Westminster, showing the consensual nature and the improvement in debate and language, might well have the desired impact in raising the standards across the country.
It is heart-breaking that David died doing the thing he loved – meeting constituents. I have always said that the best part of being an MP is the work you can do to help those living in the place that you love. You can make a real difference to those that you represent. From organised constituency surgeries to random walkabouts or door knocking sessions. It is a privilege and an honour to be able to do it and therefore the response to this tragedy cannot be to limit the engagement elected representatives have with their electorate.
Whatever we decide to do, it is all a poor substitute for losing David. I will miss my friend and colleague. I will miss that smile, that kindness, that generosity and above all I will miss the extraordinary example he was to us all through his dedication and love of family, constituency and country.