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Editorial: Dark day for democracy

THE killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess in the course of assisting constituents in Essex will have been met with shock and revulsion everywhere that democracy is valued.

The 69-year-old had been holding a regular surgery at a church in Leigh-on-Sea when he was stabbed yesterday.

A 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Sir David, a father-of-five, is the second sitting MP to be killed in the last five years, following the murder of Jo Cox in 2016.

The Labour MP was shot and stabbed by a far-right extremist outside a library in West Yorkshire as she was also due to hold a constituency surgery.

Political differences are set aside at a time like this and tributes to Sir David have paid across the spectrum, including from Northern Ireland MPs who spoke of the devout Catholic's interest in affairs on this side of the Irish Sea.

However, the overwhelming reaction was one of shock that another politician has lost his life in the act of serving the people he represents.

The church where the Southend West MP was attacked was one of several locations he used to meet people across the constituency.

These surgeries are a fundamental part of the democratic system, allowing ordinary voters to speak face-to-face with elected representatives and discuss concerns or request assistance.

An attack like this, in a public place in broad daylight, can only have a chilling effect on both politicians and the people attending such forums.

Spending on MPs' security has risen significantly since the murder of Jo Cox but questions will inevitably be asked about what further measures need to be taken.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the attack would send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and questions around security would be examined over the coming days.

The attack will also prompt further soul-searching about how political debate is conducted in an age when social media is so influential.

While it is vital that all reasonable precautions are put in place to protect MPs as they go about their work, contact with the public is a vital part of that function and closing down those opportunities would be the wrong response to this appalling act.

On a dark day, it is vital that people of all political persuasions come together to keep the light of democracy and decency shining brightly.

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