We need a politics of kindness
Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Voice
THE killing of my parliamentary colleague, Sir David Amess MP, was a tragic and devastating attack on our democracy. We had the opportunity to pay tribute to him in the Commons, and it was striking just how much warmth and respect for him was voiced by MPs on both sides of the House. I spoke about his support for animal welfare causes, and in particular his long-standing opposition to fox hunting; we may have been political opponents, but there were many issues on which we could work together and did.
The attack is all the more heart-breaking because we’ve been here before. It comes just five years after the murder of my colleague Jo Cox, and four years after the death of PC Keith Palmer in an attack on Parliament.
Sir David’s death has revived the debate about how we conduct politics in this country. I would commend the work of organisations like More In Common, which was formed after the murder of Jo Cox, and Compassion in Politics.
There has been renewed pressure on social media giants, like Facebook and Twitter, who too often provide a platform for those who want to incite hatred, and we have now been promised a debate on the much-delayed Online Harms Bill before Christmas.
But it is not just Members of Parliament who face abuse or whose physical safety is at risk. We have heard recently about NHS staff having to wear body cameras to work. Teachers, police officers, transport workers and shop workers are also often subject to abuse and violence while simply doing their jobs.
In 2018, Parliament passed the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, which made it a specific crime to assault an emergency worker and doubled the maximum sentence to 12 months. This came after a rising number of assaults against police officers and paramedics.
The passage of this legislation was a good example of cross-party collaboration, as it was first introduced as a Private Members’ Bill by a Labour MP, Chris Bryant. To give them credit, Government MPs saw the value in the Bill and worked with Chris to make it into law. A bill has been introduced by my Labour colleague Alex Norris to make assaulting retail workers a specific offence as well.
Finally, I’m so grateful for the kindness that’s been shown to me by East Bristol residents over the years. Constituents who’ve come to me for help, often whilst facing incredibly stressful situations, have overwhelmingly been respectful and grateful for what we have been able to do. I know not everyone agrees with me on everything, but I promise I’ll always treat people with respect and value what they have to say.