Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 13 January 2011

Last summer my good friend Stephen Timms Labour MP was stabbed by a young woman in his surgery. She had purchased two knives for this purpose, one with a six inch blade, the other a four inch. That morning, she later told police, she decided she would not be able to conceal the longer blade in her tunic, so only took the four inch, which she twice drove deeply into his lean body before he could react. The doctors later told him that had she chosen the six inch blade, he would be dead.
Last weekend an American congresswoman was shot in the back of the head by a young man while attending one of her regular "meet the people" events. Six other people were killed. We do not know whether or not the killer, clearly unstable, was whipped up to do this by aggressive US political debate.
Despite these two recent examples of politicians being attacked whilst conducting their normal duties, it remains important that elected representatives do not cut themselves off from the people who elected them. At Westminster we have all been advised on how to increase our security, and of course we should not take these things lightly. But access to policy makers is a vital part of our democracy.
Contrary to popular myth, most MPs are very much in touch with real life.  Of course there is an elite  handful who come from privileged backgrounds who may need to ask: "who is Jordan?" or "how much is a first class stamp?" but most of us know the answers to these fundamental questions and have grown up within the communities which we seek to represent. Most of us live in the constituencies we serve and understand only too well the problems of the school run, the cracked pavements, anti-social behaviour and so on. Our regular face to face one to one surgeries are a weekly immersion in the trials and tribulations of our fellow citizens.
Our political system is far from perfect. The recent imprisonment of a former MP for fiddling his expenses is proof of that. I hope that this incarceration, probably with three or more others to follow, will help to restore lost confidence following the expenses fiasco. It is time to draw a line.
To keep our democracy alive, we politicians must not over-react to recent attacks and lock ourselves away from the electorate. That way disaster lies.

posted by Gary @ 09:10