There was once a time – not that long ago – when I wanted, no desperately wanted, to play a role in public life. To enter parliament. To become an MP. I stood for election in 2010 as part of my candidate’s apprenticeship after 18 years of working for the Conservative Party in general, local, European and by-elections for all of those years in seats up and down the country. When I stood on the makeshift stage in sports hall of the Halton Stadium in the early hours of 7 May 2010 with 6339 votes to my name I was certain that I had taken a big step on a road that would end in me sitting on the green benches of Westminster. Nearly eight years, two more general elections and a huge change in my perspectives, priorities and life choices later, means that period of my life is now one to look back on fondly but with the page of the chapter firmly turned.
I do still have the highest admiration and regard for those who do continue their political journeys and make it elected office of all shapes and sizes to do their bit for those whom they represent. Being an MP or a councillor, an AM, MSP or MLA is a tough, back-breaking and often thankless task. With your head above the parapet, it becomes a target for cynicism, abuse and worse. Today we got a sickening reminder of this which brought back members of the horrific murder of Jo Cox, that summed up the depths we have sunk to in how MPs and others in public life are viewed by too many.
The Labour MP for West Lancashire – the next but one seat to where we live – is Rosie Cooper. Dr J and I know Rosie from our respective careers; Aileen worked directly with Rosie when she was special adviser to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee and Rosie was a member and I met her many times in my work on behalf of the GMC as she sat on the Health Select Committee and was Chair of the Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Rosie is an outstanding MP. Her work ethic and commitment is laudable; her hours in the office and on behalf of her constituents are staggering; her commitment for her community is boundless. Not only that she is a decent, honest, common sense, likeable and really engaging person. Aileen and I think a lot of her and see her as a model MP. The news today that she was the subject of a murder plot by neo-Nazis has turned our stomachs.
Such a threat to anyone is despicable; such a threat to someone playing a role in public life demeans our democracy; such a threat to someone as decent and honest as Rosie is beyond comprehension. There is plenty to blame President Trump and his British odious hate-mongerer-in-chief, Nigel Farage for. They stand accused – rightly in my view – of helping to spread division in their respective democracies, anger and hate. Their words and deeds have given to many the permission to push the envelope; to go beyond the previous norms of behaviour and express views that many of us felt had been consigned to history. Sadly, there are people who live in the US and UK who are not able to rationalise their political views and keep them as that; views, not deeds. Tragically, the natural conclusion for some who have their anger stokes by the likes of these two obnoxious excuses for leaders is to take the law into their own hands and let their actions speak louder than their words. I am not saying this happened because of Trump and Farage but they do not help; they have made a worsening situation so, so, so much worse.
Jo Cox gave her life in defence of the views and people she held dear. She was murdered because she stood up and was counted. She paid the ultimate price. Rosie Cooper could have been next. What a sick and twisted world we live in when two outstanding public servants become the targets of neo-Nazis. What a world we live in when neo-Nazis still exist. It’s a world where if any ambitions to live a public life lingers somewhere in the back of my mind, they were well and truly extinguished by these two hideous cases. I just give thanks that we have the Jo Coxs and Rosie Coopers of the world who are prepared to stand up for us all. We would be lost without them.
Photo taken from BBC News website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41777271