Sir David Amiss was a friend and a devoted servant of the public. He embraced so many campaigns -supporting families; poverty; animal cruelty- with enormous enthusiasm and lasting stamina.
Above all, he was most generous with that most precious of commodities -his time: he was always prepared to give you his time and help you out if you had a problem. His brutal murder came as a great shock.
In responding to such shocking events there is always a danger of over-reacting. In the commentaries that have followed Sir David’s murder there have been, in my estimate, a number of such over-reactions.
In several analyses the deaths of Sir David, Jo Cox, Ian Gow and Sir Anthony Berry have been classified together. I think this is quite mistaken: Ian Gow and Sir Anthony were murdered by the IRA as part of an organised territorial campaign to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. Sir David and Jo Cox were murdered by ‘lone wolves’ with quite different, though equally despicable motives.
A number of commentaries have drawn attention to the way that our public and political discourse has become so charged with unpleasantness and abuse, some on which is attributed to social media.
Whilst, this observable fact and horrid, I doubt that it accounts in any way for the ideological derangement that leads someone to kill Members of Parliament.
I am very fortunate in never having been threatened, or having felt threatened in the 23 years since I was elected. I have every sympathy with those colleagues who are constantly being threatened. Clearly, appropriate precautions need to be taken to protect them. Demands for police protection for all MPs are however, quite misplaced. There are many calls on police time. After all, many more ordinary members of the public have been killed by terrorist outrages in recent years. It would be a denial of democracy if politicians were to be protected from the public who elect them.
Sir David Amess was renowned in public life for his Christian faith, but I was rather taken by surprise by Katie Martin on Radio Solent when she asked me where God was when Sir David was murdered. I didn’t answer very well. The proper answer is that God was there. The Christian truth is that in the life of Christ God shared our suffering. We do not understand God’s purposes but it’s no good complaining that the Universe is imperfect, full of suffering and not the one that we would made. It is the Universe in which we have to live and either we have faith in its ultimate purpose even though we have no understanding, or we accept that ultimately there is no purpose, that there is no justice and that in the end suffering is un-remedied.
Professor Richard Dawkins would argue that faith in God’s purpose is based on our wish for it to be true and that we just cannot face the reality that we are in a purposeless universe (in essence Karl Marx made the same critique). Dawkins may well be right in that we do want it to be true, but since when did the desire for something constitute a disproof of its existence?
After a sleepless night of anxiety and pain you wish for the dawn; that you desire the dawn, doesn’t mean that it won’t come.