I wouldn't say I knew Jo Cox well, but I feel her loss. I'd met her at some of the many social gatherings held at Westminster, particularly in the aftermath of a General Election. It sounds trite but she just came over as a really nice person. There were lots of new MPs, and she may not have thanked me for saying it, but she was not obviously Labour or Tory. That doesn't mean she didn't have strong guiding principles, but because - as became clear - she wasn't a tribal politician.
She believed that to make a difference you have to work with others and that's what she did until her death in such appalling circumstances on Thursday. I had a bad feeling as soon as the first eyewitness reports emerged and, inadequate as it feels, my heart goes out to Jo's husband, children, and all those who loved her.
Jo was the exact opposite of the stereotype routinely trotted out by those who seek to vilify and denigrate MPs and, in so doing, challenge the basis of our democracy. Of course MPs and other elected representatives have to be accountable and challenged. And yes, MPs have made bad mistakes, shown poor judgement and even broken the law. But that doesn't justify the relentless caricature of MPs as self-serving, self-interested and out of touch or the increasingly shrill and personal attacks on individuals, often facilitated by the anonymity of social media.
Jo Cox couldn't have been further from that malicious stereotype and neither can the vast majority of other MPs. She was somebody who had made enormous personal sacrifices just to be an MP as a mother with two small children. She was rooted in her community and so wanted to change the world that she believed being an MP would allow her to make a bigger difference than working for Oxfam. It's almost unbelievable that someone who had fearlessly visited some of the most dangerous places on earth should meet her death outside a library in an English market town.
But Jo at that moment was just doing her job in the conscientious way most MPs do. Holding public surgeries in her constituency. Accessibility of our elected representatives is at the heart of our democracy and being able to see your MP in person, whether backbencher or Cabinet Minister is, in my view, essential to that. If we give up on that principle, we are letting those who want to undermine our democracy win. I don't think Jo would have wanted us to pull down the shutters and shut out the public, so I won't be doing that, and nor will fellow MPs and indeed MSPs.
I had cause to consider these issues myself a few months ago when I received what the police judged to be a credible death threat. It took the form of a letter sent after the vote in the House of Commons on intervention in Syria.
Maybe I have become so inured to abusive comments that generally I take the water off a duck's back approach, but the format and specific nature of the this letter's content, with its ISIS references, was different and that's why I assume the police took it so seriously. I don't want to give too much detail about on-going investigations, but suffice to say it was a difficult day for all of us, particularly my staff who had to have their DNA taken to eliminate them from inquiries, having touched the letter.
The police were really helpful in suggesting improvements to security at our office and in our day to day activities, but I was clear that the surgeries and public engagement had to go on. That's why just now we are planning the summer surgery tour of nearly 100 communities in my large constituency, which I have carried out in each of my 11 years as MP. I place enormous value on that contact and my constituents tell me they do too. Nothing and nobody will stop me being accessible to them.
Jo died just doing her job. We fellow MPs owe it to her memory to continue to do ours.