The family of the murdered MP Sir David Amess made the following statement via the Metropolitan Police:

“The family would like to thank everyone for the wonderful, wonderful tributes paid to David following his cruel and violent death.

“It truly has brought us so much comfort. The support shown by friends, constituents and the general public alike has been so overwhelming.

“As a family it has given us strength.

“We have realised from tributes paid that there was far, far more to David than even we, those closest to him, knew.

“We are enormously proud of him. Our hearts are shattered.

“However, there was still so much David wanted to do – this we know from the events of the last few days. So, this is not the end of Sir David Amess MP.

“It is the next chapter and as a family we ask everyone to support the many charities he worked with. There are so many to mention, so find one close to your hearts and help.

“We would ask as many people as possible to support this and meet the target to complete the project.

“Closer to home, David was working hard for Southend to gain city status. In his memory, please show your support for this campaign.

“Strong and courageous is an appropriate way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace. So, we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all.

“This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness. Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand.

“As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody.

“Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man.”

 

In our divided and broken country, the murder of an elected Member of Parliament takes us to a new low. No matter whether we disagree with the views of Sir David – and I felt some of them were pretty awful – it should surely seem inconceivable that some might score political points at his passing or, worse still, celebrate it or suggest somehow that he deserved it. But, I read elsewhere that some people on social media, on various forums, have done some or all of these things. I have not sought out nor seen such comments not least because my social media accounts have become virtual echo chambers. We don’t know the reasons why Sir David was murdered but the family’s plea for people to “show kindness and love to all” should not be ignored. But will it be?

We know many of the things that divide us. Brexit, the effects of which still divide the country no less than it did five years ago. Immigration, where parts of the media have stirred up anger against desperate and vulnerable people. Racism, not least in the Labour Party, which under Jeremy Corbyn became a place where antisemitism could not only exist, but thrive. The gross growing levels of inequality that should shame us all. We could name many more. What can we do about them?

Let me try and give an example with Brexit. Whatever our views on how and why the result to leave Europe came about, could we not come to a compromise arrangement with the EU? Instead of carrying on an endless anti-EU campaign, how about negotiating arrangements that could make everyone just a little happier? Surely it can’t be that hard? A cross-party arrangement to unite the country: ‘Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness.”

Seriously, though: haven’t you had enough of politicians lying to and gaslighting us? Isn’t it possible to create a society where everyone has the opportunity to succeed in life and to end the need for food banks? Does the colour of someone’s skin, their sexuality, their religion, really matter and if to some people it does, can’t they be educated? “Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand.” How hard can it be?

What’s the alternative to the family’s message? Carry on being angry, shouting and fighting and killing people? Really? Must it always be like that? I’m an atheist because I believe the very idea of there being a supernatural dictator invigilating over our lives is absurd, but I strongly believe that people should be free to believe in the God of their choice. I’m also a secularist and so don’t believe that the devout should enjoy any privileges denied to the rest of us. I’m also pro-Europe, LGBT friendly, opposed to sexism, racism and generally tolerant. I don’t expect everyone else to be exactly like me – what an awful country it would be if they were – but surely there’s a deal to be struck, a compromise. I will always oppose extremes in politics, in life in general – and yes, I know that can be complicated – because there is stuff in which I deeply, passionately believe. But if the extremes of the far left and the far right can be much closer to each other than they ever might admit – the horseshoe effect – surely the mainstream left and right and all points in between can agree on something? “We ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all.”

Even Sir David’s family didn’t share all of his views, not least on the matter of same-sex marriage, but they still loved him. In a democracy we debate this stuff and I would argue on this question that if you oppose same-sex marriage then don’t marry someone else of the same sex, but don’t tell everyone else how to live their lives. There you are: I’m not threatening to hurt someone by saying this. I am putting forward an argument. If our elected representatives want to ban same-sex marriage then elect a government that won’t. You could apply this to just about anything.

Above all, politicians tell the truth. Voters are always saying that politicians are liars and are only in it for themselves, yet when it comes to putting a cross in a box somehow honesty and integrity doesn’t matter. Only we as voters can change that.

Finally, a plea from the family: “Please let some good come from this tragedy.” I’ll leave it there.