How to write an economics polemic under such circumstances? How to argue about trade and geo-politics when an MP lies dead, her children bewildered, her husband in unspeakable pain?
I’ve written a weekly economics column for more than 20 years now, more than a decade in this newspaper. This one – so soon after Jo Cox’s death, yet just days before the referendum on Britain’s European Union membership – is easily the toughest.
My head is full of reasons I’ll vote Leave, reasons I still believe stand up to scrutiny. As this build up draws to a close, I also have plenty of telling anecdotes “from the campaign trail”.
What I can’t shake off, though, is the sense that, despite the looming vote, the public is utterly sick of this referendum: sick of “Project Fear”, sick of finger-wagging “experts”, sick of the battle between infantile virtue-signaling and feigned offence-taking among our political and media classes.
Yes, the stakes are extremely high. The whole country is like one big general election constituency during a referendum, so every vote counts. The reputations of many ambitious people are at stake on Thursday, to say nothing of the future path of the world’s fifth biggest economy and the broader “European project”.
Despite that, the conduct of our national debate, while robust and often testy, was until last week still just about acceptable. Then, a Yorkshire MP was slain. Ever since, as the public’s appetite for rhetorical knock-about has vaporised, that very knock-about has plumbed new depths of cynicism as the two sides have traded accusations of either “contributing to” or “exploiting for political purposes” this horrific and brutal murder.