“Despite his nearly four decades in Parliament, David always remained a grassroots Tory to his fingertips”
Conservative MP for Witham and home secretary
For those of us in the Conservative Party who came of age politically in the late 1980s or early 1990s, David Amess had legendary status. Having won Basildon against the odds in 1983, the victory which confirmed Margaret Thatcher had won over “Essex man”, it was his retention of the seat in 1992 with that beaming smile from the stage at his count that confirmed the party’s fourth successive general election victory.
It pains me as I write this to think that we will never again see that infectious smile which lit so many rooms during the nearly 30 years that it was my privilege to know him.
Despite his nearly four decades in Parliament, David always remained a grassroots Tory to his fingertips. He fought every election both in
Basildon and later in Southend as if it were the tightest marginal seat, never taking anyone’s vote for granted.
He never lost those down-toearth values of someone who earned their political spurs wearing a blue rosette as a determined and passionate young campaigner on the streets of London’s East End.
My abiding memory will be of the countless occasions at events when he would take your hand and put it in the hand of someone else to introduce you to them and make a new connection.
He was brilliant at bringing people together, which is why when David took on a cause and built alliances across the party divide, you knew that victory couldn’t be far off. His work on combatting fuel poverty has made a difference to many lives and his recent campaigning on the impact of endometriosis has already significantly raised awareness of this condition.
Just last month I was able to announce that pet abduction will become a criminal offence – something on which David had masterminded a typically energetic campaign. How poignant that it is in these most tragic of circumstances that his long-standing crusade to get city status for Southend has borne fruit. David showed how backbench MPs can get things done and move issues higher up the political agenda.
David took a strong interest in his colleagues and used his experience to help us. I have very fond memories of the friendship and encouragement he gave me when I entered Parliament. In those early days, David was an immense support in helping to navigate the workings of the Commons and parliamentary debates. Those little words of advice, anecdotes from his parliamentary career and pats on the back helped calm nerves and give confidence. He didn’t just do this to be polite; he did it because he was kind, caring and decent.
In the chamber itself, his presence on the green benches always added both gravitas and humour to proceedings. I recall the day of my maiden speech in
July 2010: it was the summer adjournment debate and David was the first MP called to speak when he gave his usual masterclass in brilliantly bringing numerous issues to the House’s attention. It was a pleasure to witness a colleague talk with such pride and devotion to his constituents.
IMP for Chorley and Speaker of the House of Commons
was in my office in Chorley, about to address a school assembly, when the call came through, that an MP had been stabbed. That it was Sir David Amess. And he had multiple injuries. I was in deep shock. It had happened again – another MP had been attacked – and as it transpired – another Member had been killed.
I went into the school and talked to the children, who were all so full of life – but going through my mind was shock at David’s horrific death, and how awful it was for his wife, family and friends to hear this terrible news.
For David had set off that morning, looking forward to seeing his family later that day – only he never came home. Instead of seeing him in his usual spot in the House of Commons chamber we were paying tributes to him.
David had such a boyish, upbeat personality, his death has hit us hard. He was one of life’s optimists: kind, big-hearted and generous – loving nothing better than to drop by the office to chat to my staff, hear the latest gossip and share a cheeky joke. Every Christmas, without fail, he presented them with a hamper full of goodies, just to say “thank you” for everything they did.
He was also a family man, devoted to his wife Julia and their five children; an animal lover, and dedicated to a wide variety of causes, from fuel poverty to endometriosis – and of course his relentless campaign to turn Southend into a city. A dream that posthumously finally came true.
For him to be killed doing the bit of the job he loved the most – meeting his constituents – is horrendous and brings into question the vulnerability of MPs at their regular surgeries. The irony was, that evening I had my own constituency surgery, in Chorley Town Hall. As a series of locals streamed in to talk about cowboy builders, housing problems, access to mental health services, and even if I knew where a cheerleading group could relocate, it occurred to me: would I want to do this differently? Via Zoom or Teams, perhaps?
The answer for me has to be a very firm “No”, but equally, I accept and respect that this might be a solution for other colleagues.
After all, how do we balance being seen by our constituents and making ourselves available to help them – while keeping ourselves and our staff as safe as possible?
The deaths of David, and Jo Cox five years ago do bring into sharp focus whether the suite of security measures offered to MPs after Jo’s death are adequate.
Time, and the pandemic which brought to a halt all face-to-face meetings, has meant people have forgotten the range of help that is available.
While we review the situation with the Home Office and police, my strong advice again to MPs is: please do everything you can to protect yourselves, your families, your staff and constituents and make sure you take all the relevant measures and support that is offered. Most MPs are like David and Jo – good, decent people who work hard, who love helping their constituents and representing them in Parliament.
If anything positive is to come out of this latest awful tragedy it is that the quality of political discourse has to change. The conversation has to be kinder and based on respect.
This incident has shown that there is unity across the political divide in support of democracy. The hate, which drives these attacks, has to end. Disagreements with politicians should be solved at the ballot box, not via threats, intimidation or violence.
Perhaps a fitting legacy for Sir
David Amess is a nicer, kinder style of politics. He has already brought us together, sadly through grief.
I hope after the very moving tributes to him that we heard in the Commons chamber, that process is already underway.
“Most MPs are like David and Jo – good, decent people who work hard, who love helping their constituents and representing them in Parliament”
Conservative MP for Hertsmere and Conservative Party chairman
They say you can tell a man by his friends. And few parliamentarians can have had more friends than Sir David Amess; a constant warm and colourful presence that charmed parliamentarians, constituents and international dignitaries alike for decades.
Sir David was the embodiment of what it means to be a strong constituency MP. He was the voice of Southend, championing its causes and people at every opportunity. Numerous prime ministers will attest to his unwavering campaign to obtain city status for Southend, never missing the opportunity to raise it at every parliamentary session no matter how tangential the cause was to the issue in hand. Indeed, Theresa May once said: “I do not think that my honourable friend has asked me a single question in the House that has not mentioned Southend becoming a city.” It is a fitting tribute to his legacy that his dream has now been realised. But also deeply sad that he has been so cruelly robbed of witnessing the fruition of his tireless efforts.
He was a man who, despite political differences, always had a kind word, piece of advice and a smile for people, whatever their political colour. From the day I walked into Parliament as an MP he treated me as an equal as if I’d been with him for the last three decades. His door was always open for advice or just a friendly chat, something I know he extended to new
MPs across the political divide.
Sir David illustrated the importance of being connected to our constituencies and the views and values of our constituents. Sometimes it can be easy to become consumed in the demands of Westminster, but Sir David never lost sight of what was most important as an
MP. Indeed, one of his former members of staff recalled last week how when given an urgent message from the Whips’ Office about voting the right way on a piece of legislation, and potentially getting a ministerial promotion, Sir David simply laughed. But when he heard someone in his constituency was seriously ill, he would call everyone he could think of well into the evening trying to get help.
Following a visit to his MP’s surgery by a constituent suffering endometriosis – a condition that affects one in 10 women – he campaigned to raise public awareness and launched a public inquiry into the condition and its treatment. He never for
“But above all else he was a kind man. A Christian man. And a man of the people”
one moment forgot those who sent him to Parliament. He was a passionate campaigner for causes he believed in and worked tirelessly across the political divide to deliver change. On animal welfare he was well ahead of his time. And early in his career he successfully got the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act passed into law. But above all else he was a kind man. A Christian man. And a man of the people. At a time when divisions are often heightened, and the tone of political debate frequently coarsened, Sir David bucked the trend. He saw, and thought of, the good in people. He exemplified the nobility of public service in Parliament. If any good can come of this numbing tragedy, perhaps we can dare to hope for a little more of his kindness in politics and some restoration of faith in it as a noble calling.
Conservative MP for Harlow
Sir David Amess was a remarkable man. Embodying the true values of an Essex man – decency, hard work and a social entrepreneur – he was the original blue-collar Conservative. It is hard to believe that such a kind, and good man, was taken from us in this cruel way.
I do not think Sir David would want us to be cowed by this horrific tragedy. Nor our interactions with constituents to be carried out solely on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. For Sir David, the whole point of being an MP was being with and amongst the people he cared for so deeply.
This is because Sir David embodied a truth: that being an MP is not just a job, it is a vocation. He recognised that being elected, and the honour of serving your constituents, however you can, is a way of life.
He campaigned relentlessly on behalf of Southend West – to cut the cost of living, to combat fuel poverty, to improve education for its children and young people and, of course, for it to be granted city status.
Better than most, he understood the importance for us as Conservatives to continue to build and support the ladder of opportunity. He wanted to provide people with the agency to improve their own situations, but he fought tirelessly to make sure the state-provided safety net was in place to catch anyone who lost their step on the way up.
One of the fondest memories I have of Sir David was during a visit to Jerusalem hosted by the Conservative Friends of Israel. We were discussing the next day’s itinerary which included a trip to the Sea of Galilee. Sir David said to me that during this trip he would make sure that I would fully understand what the Sermon on the Mount was all about.
As we got on the minibus to begin the journey, I spotted that Sir David had borrowed a large white sheet from his hotel room. Upon questioning him about why he had brought this with him, with a smile, I was told to “wait and see”.
Later that day we arrived at the sacred spot. Moved by the historical significance of the location, I was momentarily distracted. I turned around and suddenly, there appeared a biblical figure shrouded in white, walking around.
It was none other than David Amess who was attempting to provide me with a literal visualisation as to what happened many thousands of years ago. In the midst of our laughter, I remember spotting a few Japanese tourists being shocked by this apparition, wondering what on earth was going on and perhaps thinking that the Messiah had arrived.
This was typical of Sir David. Not only was he one of the kindest and most compassionate MPs I have ever met, he had an incredible sense of humour which never dampened, no matter what the situation.
Later that afternoon, we returned to the city to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sir David got out of our minibus and promptly threw up in a plant pot outside the building. This was not because he was making a statement about his view on Middle Eastern politics, but more because of the slightly dodgy kebab we had eaten for lunch.
Despite the unprompted nausea, it was a truly wonderful experience to visit Israel with Sir David. For many years he was a friend both of Israel and of the Jewish people. Indeed, he spoke many times in Parliament against anti-Semitism.
And he wasn’t just friends with the great and the good. He helped me when I first became a parliamentary candidate in Harlow in 1999, coming to speak on the “Keep The Pound” lorry in 2001.
All of us in Parliament will never forget him. I will do my part to ensure I honour his memory in every way I can.
“Sir David embodied a truth: that being an MP is not just a job, it is a vocation”
Conservative peer and life president of The House magazine
If I were asked to sum up the character of David Amess in a single sentence I would say that he was the epitome of decency. But, of course, as these pages of tribute movingly and graphically underline, he was so much more. He would have been embarrassed, astounded, but secretly very proud, to know that so many pages of one of his favourite magazines were devoted to him. For he was a great supporter of The House and believed that it helped parliamentarians to get to know each other better and provided a unique window into Parliament for those outside.
I am so glad that, just a few weeks ago, I was able to review his book and in doing so reflect upon his being one of the most widely liked, indeed loved, members of the Commons. In all the comments that have appeared since his death certain words have occurred time and time again: decent, friendly, enthusiastic, good-humoured and kind. He was a man of firm principles and strong views, sometimes quite controversial ones, but I never knew anyone who disagreed with him – and I did myself on numerous occasions – feel in any way alienated. Indeed, one warmed to the man the more one disagreed with him. I do not think that I ever saw him, in the 38 years I knew him, without a smile on his face. Even when he was being at his most controversial he diffused tension.
There were two reasons for this. First he was a House of Commons man through and through. He loved the green benches. From the moment he entered the House he took to them like the proverbial duck to water. And he knew how to appeal to his colleagues because, just as he was a House of Commons man, he was a constituency man. From the moment he entered the House in 1983 he made it known that, for him, Basildon was the centre of the universe and we were never allowed to forget that. He used every possible opportunity to mention the constituency, and the same was true after
1997 when he was first elected Member for Southend West. His campaign for city status has now been crowned with success, a fitting tribute.
One of David’s favourite moments always came at the end of a parliamentary term when there was an adjournment debate on which one was permitted to raise the subject of one’s choice. In David’s case it was always subjects. In 10 minutes or so he would reference a dozen or more from Brexit to animal welfare but always including numerous mentions of Basildon or Southend.
Although he never wavered in his political allegiance, he sought every opportunity to work with fellow Members, in all parts of the House, on subjects like animal welfare. He was a very great supporter of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, bodies which enabled parliamentarians from around the world to work together and diffuse tensions. And for 30 years he had a young American student from the Catholic University of America in his office for the summer months.
David was a devout Roman Catholic and he never sought to hide his commitment or belief. He was respected for that by all he met, just as he himself respected those of other faiths among his constituents and elsewhere.
Some three years ago I had the great privilege of addressing a dinner for his constituents in the Palace of Westminster and when I talked to them before, and wandered around the tables afterwards, the affection in which he was held, and the respect, were palpable.
“He was a great supporter of The House and believed that it helped parliamentarians to get to know each other better”
Conservative MP for Epping Forest and Deputy Commons Speaker
We all remember the iconic moment in 1992 when David’s win in Basildon heralded the Conservative majority in the general election. We remember his unfailing kindness, courtesy and cheerful smile.
And we remember celebrating his mother’s birthday, which he mentioned in the chamber every year after she reached 100, until she died aged 104.
His latest passion, Dame Vera Lynn, only lived to be 103! David launched the campaign for a memorial to Dame Vera by way of an adjournment debate, which I had the privilege of chairing on 11 May this year. I share his adoration for her, which I inherited from my father, a soldier throughout the Second World War.
Working with Dame Vera’s family,
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke and a group of eminent celebrities, David was planning a permanent memorial appropriately overlooking the White Cliffs of Dover. He said: “This project will provide a venue for concerts, theatrical productions and military events in a stunning natural setting. The memorial to Dame Vera will be at the heart of the plans and her musical legacy will live on. There she will be, looking over the Channel. It is just wonderful.”
It is indeed a wonderful vision and I sincerely hope it will be one of David’s enduring legacies.
As the inspirational service in St Margaret’s drew to a close and we acknowledged David’s devout Christianity and unswerving faith in the life hereafter, I could not help but hear Dame
Vera singing, “We’ll Meet Again”.
Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton and leader of the Liberal Democrats
It’s always a shock to hear of the passing of a fellow Member of Parliament. Always a cause for sorrow and grief. But with the loss of Sir David Amess, that shock, sorrow and grief is compounded many times over – for two reasons. First, because of the horrific manner of his death. Second, because he truly was a dedicated public servant, a well-liked colleague, and a parliamentarian who commanded deep respect across the House.
Having an MP taken from us in such a brutal and senseless attack is very difficult to come to terms with. David was doing what we as MPs have done hundreds or thousands of times over: holding a surgery to serve his constituents. Hearing their problems and offering his help.
People often turn to their MPs for help when they can’t get anyone else to listen. When they receive the inevitable “computer says no” response from the benefits system or the Home Office. When they are struggling with housing or a disability. When they’ve been bereaved.
It’s a fundamental part of an MP’s job to be the one who listens. To take up the cause of our constituents and speak up for them.
And his dedication to that role is what made David so respected – locally and in Parliament. You can hear it in the outpouring of heartfelt tributes from people in Southend and across the country since the awful news broke. From people across the political spectrum, including those of us who didn’t always agree with him.
Speaking to Liberal Democrat councillors in David’s constituency, their affection for him is clear and authentic. Carole Mulroney, a councillor in Leigh-on-Sea, told me how appreciative she was of his support for the Leigh Society and the local Heritage Centre it runs. Local history was clearly a passion of David’s, as shown by his championing the cause of the Endeavour: the only one of Leigh’s “Little Ships” to have survived the years since Dunkirk. Carole told me how Endeavour has been brought back to Leigh and restored for ceremonies and local events – not least thanks to David.
As well as being proud of Southend’s past, David will always be deeply connected to its present and its future. He could boast proudly of walking each road, street, drive, avenue and lane of his constituency, and how supportive he was of the local fishing and cockling industry. And it is fitting that in death he has finally achieved the goal he strove for relentlessly in life: getting Southend recognised as a city.
But David’s legacy stretches far beyond Essex – the county he served in Parliament for almost four decades. He took up numerous causes in Parliament, from animal welfare to Iranian democracy, and succeeded where many of us fail, getting a number of private members’ bills passed into law.
It was his Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act – which I was proud to support back in 2000 – that may have made the biggest difference to the lives of millions of people across the country. For the first time, it required the government to implement a strategy to reduce the number of people living in fuel poverty.
When, as secretary of state for energy, I came to draw up our new fuel poverty strategy in 2014 and set our new fuel poverty target, I knew I was building on the work David began.
So David Amess will be remembered as a determined campaigner, a skilled legislator and a dedicated servant to his constituents. And perhaps most remarkable of all, he will be remembered as someone who commanded as much affection and respect from political opponents as from allies.
“Having an MP taken from us in such a brutal and senseless attack is very difficult to come to terms with”
Conservative MP for Rayleigh and Wickford
Sir David Amess was my best and oldest friend in politics. Everything I ever learned about how to be a constituency MP, I learnt from him. He sponsored me for the candidates list and mentored me when I arrived in this place. Without him I would never have become a Member of Parliament. So, some might argue he has much to answer for!
But David is now our fallen comrade. He was a devoted and loving family man, and our deepest sympathies are with his widow Lady Julia and his five children, who produced the most amazingly courageous statement, the essence of which was that “love must conquer hate”. He was also the best potential Father of the House we will now never have.
He had a zest for life, a joie de vivre, for him the glass was never half empty but rather three quarters full. He was a doughty champion for Basildon and then for Southend. But you never knew what he was going to do next! That Essex “cheeky chappie” smile, that impish Amess grin, always with a hint of gentle mischief.
But he did have a serious side too. In the last few years David had become increasingly concerned about what he called the “toxic” environment in which MPs, particularly female MPs, were having to operate. He was appalled by the vile, misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me, very recently, that he really wanted something done about it.
So, as I argued during my recent speech in the tribute to him in the
House, we should now put “David’s
Law” on the statute book. The essence of this proposed legislation would be that while people in public life must remain open to legitimate criticism, they can longer be vilified and their families subject to the most horrendous abuse, especially from people who hide behind a cloak of anonymity to do so.
Unfortunately, virtually every Member of Parliament can now attest to having received vile forms of abuse on social media in recent years; be that threats against them or their families, their homes or their offices or even their staff, all of which is completely unacceptable.
The forthcoming Online Safety Bill, which has already received considerable pre-legislative scrutiny and which is now likely to come to the House in the New Year, presents a perfect opportunity to tighten online governance, not to stifle legitimate criticism of elected officials but to compel the social media companies to resolutely deal with instigators of vicious abuse, for the benefit of all the people in public life – and their families.
In short, I am absolutely determined that Sir David will not have died in vain.
“He had a zest for life, a joie de vivre, for him the glass was never half empty but rather three quarters full”
Former Labour MP for Dewsbury
It would be perfectly fair to describe the friendship that David Amess and I enjoyed as “unlikely”. On paper, we were poles apart although we shared a Catholic faith – mine somewhat lapsed – and a great love of animals, particularly dogs.
We bonded, when in 2017 we were both part of an overseas delegation to Qatar. I hadn’t had much to do with David prior to that but he was simply the best companion imaginable; kind, gentlemanly, so generous with his time, charismatic and above all funny. He had us in stitches throughout, from asking the Emir whether he enjoyed
Love Island to impromptu camel rides, to him and I plotting to release caged dogs at the local market (we didn’t!).
Funnily enough, David and I never really talked partisan politics; with the benefit of hindsight maybe that’s the reason why our friendship worked so well. His face particularly lit up when he talked about two things; his family whom he so obviously adored, and his beloved Southend. In the Commons, where he would persistently call for Southend to be given “city status” I used to laugh and good naturedly roll my eyes. I am thrilled his desire for this has been realised. It is part of a fitting legacy for “Mr Southend”.
I did a lot of work on women’s health and I was so proud of him when he told me he was establishing an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Endometriosis. He had been contacted by a constituent who suffered from this debilitating condition and was so moved by her story, he was determined to do everything within his power to help. At the inaugural meeting, I told the group how, when I had been investigated for the condition, I had worked at the hospital where I was being treated. I would occasionally bump into my gynaecologist in the canteen and I explained that I hoped it was my face he recognised! David thought this quip was absolutely hilarious and to this day, I remember him laughing for ages.
He kept in touch with me after I’d lost my seat in the 2019, telling me that upon meeting my Tory successor he introduced himself as a great friend of mine and informing him I would be a hard act to follow!
When I was diagnosed with cancer in March 2020, he sent flowers and would text to see how my treatment was progressing.
He met up with a close friend of mine in Manchester at the recent Conservative Party Conference and enquired if I could meet up for drink. It pains me beyond belief that I couldn’t make it. He told my friend to tell me that “he loved me to bits”.
It was practically impossible not to get on with David and I know his loss will be felt so acutely throughout Parliament and of course, in his constituency. The people of Southend West have lost a champion, a powerful advocate and the most kindhearted man. I always felt you could tell a lot about a person from the way they treated the House of Commons staff and, true to form, David was always polite and kind; his trademark smile ever present.
Our country and indeed, our Parliament are far poorer for David’s passing. Personally, I will never forget his kindness and the camaraderie and laughter we shared. He was one of a kind and I adored him.
“It was practically impossible not to get on with David”