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David Amess

Politics is blighted by a toxic culture

This week I was “suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed by grief”, says Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. It was brought on by poor Sir David Amess and the faces of his widow and daughters as they surveyed tributes to him outside the church in Southend where he was stabbed to death. When did wanting to make a difference in society “become a crime punishable by death”? I once thought politics was a big adventure, but now it’s blighted by a toxic culture. On Tuesday I had to watch the father of my children, Michael Gove, being mobbed by anti-lockdown protestors shouting “You’re a f***ing idiot!”. I’ve been screamed at in public, and someone sent our daughter an 18th-birthday card “threatening to kill her”. It gets to you. You avoid socialising. You sleep a lot, “seeking solace in unconsciousness”. Don’t we deserve something more than this “awful climate of fear and loathing”?

The crucial distinction between political and private life “is being eroded”, says Andrew Sullivan in the Weekly Dish. Here in the US, it’s just as bad. Far-right thugs hurled a bloody pig’s head into the home of Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi over new year. The left’s no better: after a police shooting, protestors besieged the home of the mayor of Washington DC, yelling deadly threats: “If we don’t get no justice… burn it down.” You could argue that “making the political personal is a boon for accountability” – that greater transparency is always something to which we should aspire. But liberal society is defined by its belief that politics has limits. Without them we’ll quickly descend into a “transparent, unsparing, brutalising world”.

The Qatar connection

Was David Amess targeted because of his links to Qatar? The Somali family of the British murder suspect, Ali Harbi Ali, 25, think it’s possible, says Vivek Chaudhary in the Daily Mail. Sir David chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Qatar, visiting the Gulf state and even hosting its ambassador on a tour of Southend, where he was an MP. Many Somalis accuse Qatar of “propping up” their country’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Ali’s father, Harbi Abi Kullane, was a senior aide to Somalia’s former prime minister. On 5 October he called for Qatar’s “unhealthy” presence in the East African country to be “eliminated”.  There is no suggestion that Mr Kullane in any way has extremist views.