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Editorial Monday 20 June 2016: A reflection on politics and choice

"The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful of each other,
We should be kind
While there is still time."
Philip Larkin

The killing of Jo Cox MP last week overshadows the political landscape. The personal grief and loss for her family and friends is as evident as it is massive.

The moral, personal and political character of Jo Cox and her family is best shown by her husband's statement, her family's response and by her maiden speech in Parliament.

We need to take the opportunity for some good to arise from this appalling event.

Across Western democracies, as it bobs in the long bow-wave of the global financial crisis, politics seems to be having some kind of breakdown.

Economics, politics and technology continue driving a tide of change which is not making all boats rise alike; some are holed below the water-line.

Automation, casualisation and globalisation produce losers as well as winners. Creative destruction doesn't sound so great if you have low education, skills and training.

Out of this discontent is born a new generation of nativist, nationalist politicians promising voters a brighter, safer (and implicitly, whiter) yesterday.

So we have the United Kingdom Independence Party. We have the remarkable carnival spectacle of Donald Trump in the USA.

Nearby, Marine Le Pen looks set to make it to the second round of the Presidential elections next year in France, and might win.

Austria's presidency was recently contested between a green politician and a far-right politician.

The political mood has soured, and the tone of debates worsened. It isn't fanciful to talk about a post-trust politics.

Often, the media do not help, with its pandering to shrinking attention spans; generally declining use of expert correspondents; and widespread failure to find effective digital business models.

Politics can be better than this. Jo Cox proved that, and in an unfashionable view, so do the vast majority of our national politicians.

OK, the expenses scandal didn't help the image of MPs in this country. However, their job is hard; intrinsically often insecure; and (given that they collectively run and hold to account the fifth largest economy in the world) relatively poorly paid.

Politics needs to rediscover the values of bipartisanship, civility and frankness about emotive and difficult issues.

Many fair-minded people are concerned about the impacts of migration (of economic and other kinds) on housing and public services. Such concerns are reasonable, and no recent government has been willing to address them effectively.

Equally, the main parties have failed to tell people fearful of migration that it is an issue born of our economic, political and social success and stability.

It is beyond question that the immigration debate Venn diagram overlaps with some concerns about ethnic homogeneity.

The 'true blood Brit' is an ahistorical nonsense, of course. The Angles, the Saxons, the Vikings, the French, the Romans, the Irish, the Bangladeshis, the Jamaicans, the West Indians, the Polish, the Somalis: going back decades and centuries, they've come over here and built our houses and roads and stadia, staffed our farms, staffed our public services, dynamised our culture, won our Olympic medals.

Do we want to demonise outsiders, whether by nation of origin, ethnicity or faith? Is that the country we want to be? Simon Schama is excellent on historical context; J K Rowling is just as excellent on the narrative creation of villains.

Other voices suggest that sovereignty is the real issue. We have lost so much sovereignty that we're voting on whether we stay in the EU? That seems pretty sovereign to me.

We can use this opportunity to do our politics differently. We can step away from distrusting experts and the abuse of data.

We can admit that many of the problems we face as a mature democracy are complex, and the solutions long-term.

We can be honest that improving public services is partly about changing delivery to maximise efficiency, and is also partly about what we are willing to spend.

We can seek to disagree without being disagreeable. We can seek to work together whenever possible on the issues that really matter to people.

None of these things are impossible. None of them cost money.

Jo Cox was clearly a deeply impressive politician and human being: a huge loss to the political landscape - and of course to her family and friends.

Do we want to be more like her?

Or do we want to be small, cramped, grudging, narrow, nay-saying, parochial, partisan people who hope to hold on to a brighter yesterday?

This choice belongs to us, and we to it.