Monday, October 18, 2021

We can't isolate ourselves

The appalling murder of Sir David Amess MP has again put the safety of elected representatives into the headlines. In my 34 years as a councillor, I have experienced one person coming into my surgery and intimidating me by pointing out he was considerably bigger than me; one incident of paint being thrown over my front room window; a brick being thrown through my car windscreen and more recently, threatening abuse from a bunch of conspiracy theorists (Gateshead Council took legal action against one of them and I was twice a witness in court).

None of this comes close to what happened to Sir David but none of it will stop me from seeing my constituents. There have been suggestions that more barriers need to be put up between the people and their elected representatives. In some circumstances, there may have to be barriers, but we need to remain as open as possible. I live in the community I represent. People stop and talk to me every day. Many know where I live and if they don't, finding my address would be easy even if all references to it were removed from the internet. It is not physically possible to isolate ourselves and frankly, I would not want to. One of the activities I enjoy most as a councillor is speaking to people. If we lose that, we lose democracy. And the terrorists would therefore have won.

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