By Pauline Kerr
The brutal murder of British MP, Sir David Amess in a suspected terrorist attack has raised questions around the world about the safety of political representatives.
By all accounts, Amess was “a man of the people” – approachable, interested in speaking with his constituents and representing them to the best of his ability. He was known for his work on behalf of young people with special educational needs, and campaigned against trophy hunting and fox hunting. He was described as a good, kind man, a family man, and a political representative who “got things done.”
The murder investigation was still in its early stages as of press time, but reading the various accounts provides a picture of an accused killer with probable ties to Islamic terrorism. It is unlikely the killer knew his victim personally; Amess was murdered not because of who he was, but because of his position. The fact he made it a habit of meeting directly with his constituents made it easy for the killer to get access to his victim.
There is a certain grim irony in the fact that a leader in a totalitarian regime where the public has no say in government would have been safer. Such a leader would not have been at a public place, meeting with ordinary constituents. He would not have been out in public at all, at least, not without well-armed bodyguards, bullet-proof glass shields and metal detectors.
Moreover, in such a regime anyone even remotely suspected of being dangerous would have been behind bars or dead.
Because Britain is a democracy, where leaders govern according to the will of the people, a terrorist was able to stab and mortally wound an elected representative.
Around the time this tragedy occurred, elected representatives in this area were doing much the same thing as Amess – meeting with community members, with no police car in sight.
Literally anyone in this area can greet a member of provincial legislature or parliament, even a cabinet minister, one-on-one. In the days before COVID, the greeting would likely have included a handshake.
Despite Amess’ murder, that is unlikely to change. British politicians and their democratically elected counterparts here and elsewhere will continue to meet their constituents and hear what they – we – have to say.
Democracy is far from perfect. Winston Churchill has been quoted as saying “democracy is the worst form of government – except all the others that have been tried.”
One has to wonder what form of government would be preferred by a person who would slaughter someone like Amess. We can only pray we never find out.
A society in which government leaders cower in fear behind barricaded doors, and never meet with ordinary people, is not one we would want to be a part of.
If anything good can emerge from a tragedy like the death of Amess, let it be a renewed respect for political leaders like he was – people who take pride in being part of their communities, who meet with members of the public and who try to provide the best representation possible.
We have just had a federal election and are facing provincial and municipal elections. Bravo to the people who have stepped forward or who will do so in the coming months, to seek election.
It takes courage and commitment to seek public office, especially in challenging times like those in which we live. A global pandemic continues to wreak havoc, a housing crisis looms and climate change threatens many communities in ways too numerous to list.
The people we have just elected, and who we will soon elect, may not be perfect. Some of them will make mistakes. There will be decisions with which we disagree. We may even become angry enough not to vote for that person again.
As systems of government go, it may not be ideal but is impossible to imagine one that would give us better representation, more rights and a greater ability to give voice to our ideas.
No murderous act of violence will change that.