I have been off work over the last couple of weeks after losing a close loved one. Grief is the burden we bear for love and losing someone close is something that we all experience at some point in our lives, but that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier when it happens to you. So I can’t imagine what the family of Sir David Amess are going through, but I know they will be hurting. I send my heartfelt condolences to them. Sir David was a fine parliamentarian, a proud advocate for his constituents and above all such a kind, generous and warm-hearted man. He will be missed on all sides of the house.
As a society we need to offer better support to people who are going through bereavement, loss and other traumatic or difficult experiences in their personal lives. I hope that the fact that I took time to deal with a bereavement will encourage other people to do the same when they are going through grief or trauma.
While I have been away from the cut and thrust of parliament I have reflected on our political debate and the threats and abuse that now seem to feature all too often.
I have also reflected on what I said at an event at Labour party conference. I was angry about where our country is headed and policies that have made life harder for so many people I represent. But I would like to unreservedly apologise for the language I used, and I would not use it again.
I will continue to speak my mind, stand up for Labour values and hold the government to account. But in the future I will be more careful about how I do that and in the language that I choose.
All of us in positions of leadership have a responsibility for our language and rhetoric, whether towards political opponents or anyone else in society, especially those already most vulnerable. As deputy leader of the Labour party I take this responsibility with the utmost seriousness and I am sure that politicians from all parties, the media and others with a prominent role in our public life will also reflect on this shared responsibility.
I want to address the threats I have received recently. In the past I have been reluctant to speak out about the abuse that I receive because I fear that doing so will only make the situation worse. However, in recent weeks the threats that I have received against my life and the lives of close family have been so terrifying and explicit that I could not stay silent and simply continue to take it as “part of the job”. They have had a devastating impact on me, my children and others close to me.
It shakes you when you get these threats. You worry about the safety of your home, your office and everything in your life. And it takes its toll on the people who work for me too.
My staff come to work and do their jobs with dedication and professionalism. They bear the brunt of much of this abuse and then get on with their working day. Dealing with death threats and liaising with the police about their safety should not be a standard part of the day-to-day working life of a member of parliament or their staff.
So I want to thank the police officers from Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire police who have arrested a number of people in recent days and demonstrated the utmost professionalism, courtesy and kindness both in carrying out their investigations and in supporting me, my family and my staff during what has been a very difficult time. I and my team will continue work with them to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice.
After attending a funeral on Monday I will be back to work, rolling my sleeves up and standing up for my brilliant constituents in Ashton-under-Lyne, Droylsden and Failsworth – along with everyone who needs a Labour government.