LET’S start by stating the obvious. The brutal killing of MP David Amess was an abomination. It’s impossible to even imagine the grief and pain of a family robbed of someone so loved and respected.

That the stabbing was carried out while he was engaged in a vital part of the democratic process – meeting constituents and listening to their problems – makes it somehow even more grievous, an attack on not just one, albeit beloved, person but on an established system which guides how we live our lives.

The killing would have been an abomination even if the victim had none of the qualities so obvious from the many beautiful, heartfelt and heartbreaking tributes by those who knew David Amess and who loved him. The picture that emerged of a kind, loving man and a passionate and dedicated MP served to underline the devastating loss inflicted by the tragedy.

We didn’t have to know David Amess to appreciate the nature of that loss to public life and public service and to join together to mourn that loss.

We did not have to know the MP Jo Cox to grasp the shock and devastation felt by a family left bereft by her murder in 2016; to think of their “visceral pain”, to use the phrase employed by her sister Kim Leadbeater ­– now an MP herself – in the Commons this week, and tremble at the thought of its effects.

The National: The stabbing of Sir David Amess is the latest attack on MPs (Jo Cox Foundation/PA)

Jo Cox (above) too was a remarkable person, although her murder would have been no less shocking and no less evil had that not been the case.

Two senseless deaths, each of which sent tremors of grief through the lives of so many and left us struggling to make sense of dreadful events and desperately seeking ways to protect ourselves and those we love from such horrors.

And so there followed the inevitable demands for action, demands which had many different aims: to change a culture accused of encouraging hate and violence; to make the political discourse kinder and less adversarial; to tackle some hateful growth attacking the roots of democracy; to make sure that whatever allowed such evil brutality to thrive is forever banished from our lives.

I want all that too. I never want my family or those I love to feel abused, emotionally or physically. The thought of anyone knowingly hurting them makes me blind with rage, makes me want to lash out, not just to protect them but to inflict serious injury on anyone who threatens them.

READ MORE: Kevin McKenna: Politicians decrying abusive discourse should lead by example

But we need to be clear what exactly we want to achieve by such actions. It’s not enough to make laws to criminalise every behaviour with which we disagree, to insist on changes, any changes, RIGHT NOW. To just do SOMETHING, and do it QUICKLY while the window of opportunity is open and we’re desperate to cauterise the wound.

We should recognise that sometimes kneejerk reactions don’t have the effect we want. Sometimes they only serve to make us feel better for a while and don’t tackle the real problems at all.

I understand those voices calling for a kinder, a more humane, a warmer form of politics. And I’d love to live in that world too. And yes I’d like to agree with calls for politicians and commentators to criticise policies rather than people. After all, it’s nice to be nice.

But politics is born of passion. It is driven by a desire to change the world. It is fuelled by a determination to stop your opponents from enacting dangerous and damaging policies. Sometimes people do bad things. Sometimes people make bad policies. And sometimes that reflects badly on them. Politics is about morals. Yours, mine, society’s. The morals of those we elect to represent us.

I happen to fundamentally disagree with the principles that currently drive the Conservative Party. I don’t admire rich politicians willing to deprive vulnerable people of the measly but essential £20 a week added to universal credit to ease some of the financial problems caused by the pandemic. I can’t accept that the damage inflicted on our economy by Brexit was done in good faith, just as I couldn’t accept that Margaret Thatcher’s attack on working class communities was carried out with their long-term best interests at heart.

I hated the ideology which drove the pro-Brexit campaign and disliked the language employed by those arguing that we would be better off in some form of splendid isolation without “foreigners” sticking their oar in. I blamed the politicians running the Brexit campaign for that and I believe it was right to say so.

I want the politicians I elect to challenge the moral basis on which such decisions are made. I don’t want them to play nice. I want them to call out bad behaviour. I want them to be angry and I want them to hold those making such decisions to account. Of course I don’t want them to provoke or urge violence. I do, however, believe that the vast majority of people can understand the difference between taking political action to democratically remove politicians with whom they disagree and physically attacking them. There are very few people who would confuse those two things.

So yes… we need to do something. We need to ensure our politicians are kept safe and protected from the minority who, whether through illness or uncontrollable anger, would inflict violence on them. We need to control – but not forbid permanently – personal contact with constituents. We need to act immediately on death threats and we need to have zero tolerance for those who threaten our elected members and their families.

But we don’t want to pull our punches on politicians whose behaviour does not meet the standards required of public servants.

The National: Carrie and Boris Johnson in Downing Street, London

As I write controversy rages around Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, who had a friend to stay over the festive period. Critics say the visit was in breach of festive lockdown rules. Carrie Johnson says she needed help with childcare during a difficult pregnancy. It doesn’t sit well with me criticising a woman who suffered a miscarriage. But we are talking about a Prime Minister and we have the right to know if he broke the rules he imposed on the rest of the country and he has the duty to respond to the criticism.

THERE are dangers in not holding politicians to account because we think they do an admirable job. Who decides when to go easy or when to play hardball?

The news broke yesterday that Leicester police officers “shut down” investigations into allegations of child abuse against former MP Lord Janner, who died in December 2015. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Boris Johnson’s misdemeanour – if indeed that’s what it was – is comparable in any way with child abuse. But someone somewhere decided to go easy on Janner. Most people would think that was the wrong decision but nonetheless the investigation stopped.

The National: Conservative Party MP Mark Francois speaks in the chamber of the House of Commons, Westminster, as MPs gather to pay tribute to Conservative MP Sir David Amess, who died on Friday after he was stabbed several times during a constituency surgery in

On Tuesday Tory MP Mark Francois (above), a good friend of David Amess, urged the government to “markedly” toughen up the Online Harms Bill to stop MPs being what he described as “systematically vilified”. He also suggested action to stop people posting anonymously on social media.

Online abuse is certainly becoming a real problem and it’s one affecting not just MPs. Women suffer much more from such abuse than men.

It’s undeniable that the major social media players such as Facebook and Twitter could do more to clampdown on online abuse when it’s pointed out to them. They should be made to do so.

But I’m not sure that ending online anonymity is the solution to the problem. The good it might do could well be overshadowed by unintended consequences for whistleblowers and for those campaigning for democracy in countries under the control of authoritarian regimes. Or for women hiding from abusive partners.

We need to protect our MPs. But we need to also protect our rights to call out our elected representatives when they let us down. Of course it’s possible to do both but it will require more thought than has been devoted to it so far.