Prime Minister leads tributes to Southend’s champion, Sir David Amess
Boris Johnson led tributes in the House of Commons to Sir David Amess by announcing his home town of Southend would be made a city in honour of the man he described as a “steadfast servant” to Parliament.
The Prime Minister said the veteran Conservative MP was “taken from us in a contemptible act of violence,” but told the Commons as it returned from recess that colleagues should not allow the manner of his death “to detract from his accomplishments as a politician or as a human being”.
Calling the married fatherof-five “a patriot who believed passionately in this country, in its people and in its future”, Johnson paid tribute to a “prodigious campaigner” and one of the “nicest, kindest and most gentle individuals ever to grace these benches”.
Responding to the announcement that the Queen had agreed Southend “will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves”, Labour leader Keir Starmer called the move “a fitting tribute to Sir David’s hard work”.
He added: “On behalf of the entire Labour Party, I want to lean across to reach across and to acknowledge the pain that’s felt on the opposite benches, and I do.
“Of course our differences matter, after all that’s what democracy is about, but today we’re reminded that what we have in common matters far more.”
Earlier home secretary Priti Patel said it was “agonising” to know MPs would not see Sir David’s “wonderful smile again”, saying “decency ran through him like the writing in a stick of Southend rock”.
Another Essex MP, the
Tory former minister Mark Francois, described Sir David as his “best and oldest friend in politics”, calling him “potentially the best Father of the House we will never have”.
In a sombre afternoon James Duddridge, Sir David’s constituency neighbour and now Southend’s only MP, brought some levity after telling the story of how the late MP accidentally got a boiled sweet blessed by the Pope on a trip to the Vatican.
Opening the debate in the Commons, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said Sir David and fomer minister James Brokenshire, who recently died from cancer, were both “outstanding friends and colleagues”, and sent heartfelt condolences to both their families. Hoyle added: “All Members want to ensure not just that we and our staff are able to work safely, but that our democracy itself, with the local Member of Parliament at the heart of their constituency, is able to function securely. On that, I know the House is united.”
In the Lords peers also paid tribute, starting with Speaker Lord McFall, who called Sir David “a true parliamentarian” and “an exemplar of decency and courtesy”.
The Archbishop of York, who grew up in Southend and was a friend of the late
MP, told the upper chamber: “I reckon that now Southend has been declared a city today, forget about a statue of Vera Lynn at Dover, we are going to put a statue of David Amess at the end of Southend pier.”
The former chancellor Lord Clarke of Nottingham said despite disagreeing with Sir David on issues like Brexit, he “would never have dreamed of allowing political disagreement to interfere with personal friendship”, while an emotional Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, the Tory leader in the Lords, said of Sir
David’s family: “We have lost a dedicated public servant and a colleague but they have lost a husband and a father.
“I hope they can find some comfort in our admiration and respect for the most decent of men.”
Back in the Commons, former prime ministerTheresa May said every MP had “lost a friend”, adding that Sir David gave an “extraordinary”
“Decency ran through him like the writing in a stick of Southend rock”
service to his constituents. “I suggest to anybody who wants to be a first-class constituency MP that you look at the example of David Amess,” she added.