It’s about time we showed some respect for our MPs
- Credit: PA
Shock, enormous shock. That is the dominant feeling in the wake of the shooting of the MP Jo Cox.
In some countries, the murder of a politician is a regular occurrence, and people are almost numbed to its impact.
Here, thank goodness, it matters.
It matters because it is so rare. It matters because democracy is so embedded in our past and our present. And it matters because we value human life.
But while life remains valued in Britain, how much do we value and appreciate our MPs?
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Ask yourself the question, then ask your friends. I suspect most answers would contain a degree of anger and disrespect.
The expenses scandal did not help, of course. But I think it showed that only a tiny minority of MPs were bad. A few more were careless, while the vast majority were above reproach.
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However, the mud has stuck to them all. They're just 'greedy, overpaid and lazy', aren't they?
No, they're not.
If they were greedy, they'd use their undoubted skills to earn big bucks in the private sector. For their basic pay is – in relation to the importance and intensity of their role – basic.
They get £74,962 per year. I'd be happy with that, but I wouldn't be prepared to do what it takes to earn it – or make the sacrifices required to keep it.
To become an MP, most have spent countless years working their way up through their party, attending endless and often excruciating meetings and events, working most if not all days and nights. My MP Norman Lamb finally won North Norfolk in 2001 after more than a decade of campaigning – all while he had a full-time job. I doubt he was doing it for the money.
Yes, some MPs are parachuted in (though they still have to work hard to be allowed to put on the parachute), but most have to take the long and dispiriting overland approach.
And, no matter how good they are at their job, at the end of up to five years they could be sacked by their constituents on polling day – usually because of their party's, not their own shortcomings.
If you still think their £74,962 a year is too much, consider this:
The Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is said to get £288,000 per week – after tax. His teammate Gareth Bale lags behind with £256,000 per week.
Each of the leading cast members of the US TV comedy The Big Bang Theory gets $1m per episode.
The Open golf championship 2015 champion Zachary Johnson won £1.15m.
These people can use £74,962 to wipe Moët and Chandon off their kitchen floor.
Think also about what many MPs miss out on for the sake of their job/calling.
Jo Cox had a husband and two children. With a constituency in West Yorkshire, it meant spending much of her life at her London office (the House of Commons), away from her family.
Many other MPs make similar sacrifices, not for the money or the glory, but because they believe in democracy and believe that they can make a difference – not to their lives, but to ours.
Norman has made a difference to many lives, including mine.
Last year, I was taken in the middle of the night from the N&N to a hospital in south-west London for mental health care. The experience of being sent there, away from my loved ones, was horrendous – the care and isolation were even worse.
Norman has taken up the issue and been tireless in challenging the authorities about both my treatment and the broader issue of out-of-area care.
He has gone beyond what I dared expect from my MP.
And yet his opponents in North Norfolk do not even have the respect to use his name, preferring instead to refer to him in letters and conversations as 'Lamb'. It's sad and rather pathetic.
Countless other MPs also go beyond our expectations. From the obituaries I have read today, it is clear that Jo Cox did the same.
Her death will not suddenly stop narrow-mindedness and hatred. But it would be nice if it shocked people into having more respect for our MPs.