ALL right-thinking people have been shocked and saddened by the tragic death of MP Jo Cox, who was universally liked and respected at Westminster and beyond.

Her brutal murder will rightly give society pause for reflection about the security of our politicians and the way we conduct our politics; not least because she leaves behind a loving husband and two young children.

As is so often the case with such terrible events, people demand immediate answers; conclusions are sometimes drawn in a knee-jerk fashion before all the facts are known. The motive of the person responsible for Jo Cox’s death will emerge in time and then society will be able to take stock and see what can be done to try to prevent another such tragedy from ever happening again.

But in the aftermath of the murder, politicians have begun to talk about how the tone of British politics has taken a turn for the worse.

Yvette Cooper, the former shadow home secretary, spoke of an “increase in vitriol in public debate” and that, while there was passion and sometimes anger, “there is the feeling that there is more nastiness in public debate now...”

Her colleague Ed Miliband, the former party leader, picked up on the point and said: “We should reflect on the way we conduct our politics. There is too much hatred and not enough respect and that’s true on all sides.”

Even Angela Merkel from afar felt the need to comment, perhaps picking up on the intensity of the rhetoric used in the current In-Out referendum debate.

The German chancellor said: "The exaggerations and radicalisation of part of the language do not help to foster an atmosphere of respect."

She said it was important to value the rules of democracy, noting: "We know how important it is to draw limits, be it in the choice of speech, in the choice of the argument but also in the choice of partly disparaging argument. Otherwise, the radicalisation will become unstoppable."

The days of unquestioning deference towards the political class are long gone. Scepticism about politics and politicians is a good thing. While it makes our parliamentarians uncomfortable, making them justify their existence as our democratic representatives every hour of every day makes for a healthy democracy.

But it should be done in a way that enhances the democratic process and does not diminish it.

Following the 2009 expenses scandal the reputation of MPs sunk to a new low; understandably so. The headlines of “snouts in the trough” were legion and parliamentarians, who were not guilty of any wrongdoing, often complained that they felt like social pariahs.

But the worst offenders went to jail. If we did not like others or felt they got off lightly, within a year we had the ability to kick them out; in some cases, we did.

MPs have spoken of unremitting campaigns of abuse and even death threats simply for speaking out on sensitive subjects.

The nastiness, the hatred and the disparaging arguments have nowhere been more displayed than on social media, where people, from behind the cloak of anonymity, feel emboldened to say things they would never dream of saying to a person’s face. Trolling has become a modern menace. Jo Cox's Labour colleague Jess Phillips had to endure online threats of rape, more than 600, in a single night.

As if to underline the point, social media has been used, unbelievably, in the past 24 hours to welcome Jo Cox’s murder; praising the actions of the murderer. One tweet read: “Only 649 MPs to go.”

After laying a bouquet of flowers in respect of Jo Cox in her Yorkshire constituency, David Cameron spoke of tolerance; always regarded as one of the fundamental pillars of British society.

"Where we see hatred, where we find division, where we see intolerance, we must drive it out of our politics and out of our public life and out of our communities.

"If we truly want to honour Jo, then what we should do is recognise that her values - service, community, tolerance - the values she lived by and worked by, those are the values that we need to redouble in our national life in the months and years to come."

Jeremy Corbyn insisted that, in his colleague’s memory, “we will not allow those people who spread hatred and poison to divide our society”.

And the Labour leader surely spoke for all right-thinking people when he added that society would defy the hate-mongers; that Jo Cox’s death would only lead to a determination to “strengthen our democracy, strengthen our free speech”.