Today Great Britain faces many challenges – worker shortages in key areas, power supply shortfalls, and daily Covid numbers still in the tens of thousands – but there remains an essential decency in its political system and the parliament of the United Kingdom in particular.
The appalling terrorist murder of the Tory MP, Sir David Amess, and the events which have followed, have really highlighted the underlying decency and strength of the ":Mother of Parliaments". Sadly, the same simply cannot be said any longer of our National Parliament and our political system.
I follow UK politics closely, so readers will not be surprised I have been pre-occupied with watching and reading about Sir David's murder and how the UK's political leaders, across the political divide, have responded to it.
On Saturday night I was watching Sky UK where tributes were being paid to Sir David whose death occurred less than 24 hours earlier. Unannounced the channel crossed to outside the Methodist Church in Essex where he was stabbed to death in the course of one of his regular electorate "surgeries" something just about all UK MPs hold regularly.
Walking up the road was a small group carrying wreaths. It soon became apparent the two wreath carriers in front were the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Leader of the Labour Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer. Immediately behind them were the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.
The wreath laying ceremony took just a few minutes, but it highlighted one of the real strengths of the UK parliamentary system. In times of national emergency and tragedy the government and the opposition stand as one, and stand as equals.
The tributes paid to Sir David Amess after his death highlighted the career and service of a remarkable parliamentarian. He entered Parliament at the 1983 elections, on the same day as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, both of whom would rise to be Prime Minister. And both paid most generous tributes to him.
Sir David served in the House of Commons for 38 years. He never sought, and never received, ministerial office or even that of a parliamentary secretary. Yet he was known across the political divide for his decency, his courtesy, and his unswerving commitment to the causes he believed in – animal welfare, securing affordable heating for low income families and providing opportunities for disabled entertainers among many others.
He was industrious at securing the passage of private members bills through the Commons – something that is rarely seen in our National Parliament. And he pushed relentlessly for his main constituency town, Southend, to be given city status.
On Monday normal parliamentary business was suspended for more than two hours as member after member paid warm tributes to him, led by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the SNP, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and members from all parties represented in the Commons.
When a serving member in the Australian Parliament dies, the parliamentary tributes are limited, generally read out and often frankly inadequate.
But in their tributes to Sir David Amess spoke either off the cuff or with a few notes. Those from the Labour side were as generous as those from the Tory benches on which he served for almost four decades. The tributes from Labour MPs from Essex were especially moving.
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