Jo Cox

On Monday I attended the special sitting of the House of Commons called in tribute to Jo Cox MP.

The whole country was deeply shocked by Jo's horrific murder last week, and the speeches from across the House - as her family looked on from the public gallery - were very moving.

Campaigning in the referendum was suspended for two days, but like every other MP I went out on Saturday morning to meet my constituents.

We all feel strongly that MPs must continue to make ourselves available to the public, to be held to account and to help wherever we can, and so I went down to the Arundel Farmers' Market to chat about any issue that people wanted to raise.

While some have dismissed the attack as a once-off incident, the truth is that it was not.  Just a fortnight ago, a good friend of mine who is MP for an inner-city constituency was threatened in his surgery by a man with a knife.

In 2010 the Labour MP Stephen Timms was very seriously injured in his London surgery by a woman who attacked him a knife.  The police said he was fortunate not to have been killed.

In 2000 the then Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones was attacked and seriously injured by a man wielding a samurai sword in his Cheltenham constituency office.

His assistant, local Councillor Andrew Pennington, was killed while protecting the MP - a heroic act for which he was posthumously awarded the George Medal.

While sensible attempts can be made to tighten up security, there is a limit to what practically can be done.  In our parliamentary democracy, the accessibility of MPs to our constituents is essential.

Nor will we ever be able to guarantee that a deeply disturbed individual will not, seemingly at random, commit some dreadful atrocity.

After Jo's death, I received a number of kind messages from constituents thanking me for doing my job, for which I was very grateful.

But MPs are not special.  We are just doing our job.  I won't forget that, every day, police officers, NHS staff and others are attacked while carrying out their work.  Many are injured and some even lose their lives while they are trying to help or protect others.

That same ethos of public service drove Jo in her all too brief Parliamentary career.  Let us celebrate that.

Nick Herbert