MPs like David Amess and my own inspiring dad worked tirelessly whenever a constituent needed their help. The risk of death wouldn’t have changed that for a second
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My dad was an MP from 1992 to 2015. Leeds East. George Mudie. When I was little, he was a councillor.
All my early life, on a weekend, after school, evenings, whenever, I would get taken to surgeries with him so we could spend some time together.
Three a week sometimes. Alston Lane, Seacroft Library, Harehills Labour Club, Cross Gates Library, Brooklands Avenue. All year round.
I remember being amazed when I was a kid that people would come out for an appointment, whatever the weather, whatever the time. I would play or read or something, and measure which TV programme I was going to miss judging by the size of the queue.
And that was my early impression of politics. That’s the point of it. You go and meet the people you’re trying to look after, you listen to them, you do your best for them.
That’s what my dad believed – still believes – politics is about.
On those leaflets you get through your letterbox he had his office number, civic hall number and our home number. The phone never stopped.
When I was really little, stupidly little, I learned how to take down people’s address, their problems, and we had a little list by the phone of numbers to ring. I think before I got to primary school I could point someone to the right council department, or take a note so my dad could ring back.
The phone never stopped. Later on, my girlfriend was amazed that from first thing in the morning until last thing at night at least one member of my family would be on the phone.
But as I say, that’s what my dad believed – still believes – politics is about. Councillor, MP, whatever, if you work for people, you’re supposed to be there for them. Probably the most severe bollocking I got from my dad – and we didn’t get many (not enough, some would say) – was when I was short with a woman who had called about a broken window when my tea was getting cold.
My dad said: “People ring here because they want help. You don’t be rude to them. You make sure you listen. You don’t turn them away.”
That’s what the visitors to the house, the phone calls, the surgeries, were all about. That’s what Sir David Amess was doing. An MP for 38 years, a Southend obsessive, a gentle man, well liked and respected across the place. A skilled politician – smart, kind.
Going out to do your job, a crisp afternoon in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Maybe not suit weather, maybe a sweater. Constituency work. A bottle of water, a pad, a cup of tea.
Get there a bit early, check out the queue. Say hello. Get settled in.
Then God only knows what, although we’ll know soon enough, I suppose.
For now it’s just the pictures from the helicopter the TV flying over the scene. The church in a web of police tape. The quiet houses and the conservatories and the neat lawns, the horror in the middle of it all.
And I think about MPs and I think about my dad. All those years you were helping people, all those years you were doing your best, you never knew you were risking your life.
I knew David a little bit, Jo a little bit more. They wouldn’t have done anything different. Maybe they should have, but they wouldn’t have done anything different.