Sir John Major
Former Conservative prime minister
The true horror of David Amess’ death is hard to absorb. No one can know what was in the mind of the killer, nor who put it there, nor what they hoped to achieve. But what we do know is that it was a profoundly evil act, robbing a good man of his life, and bringing heartbreak to those who loved him.
Before last week, few people outside Parliament will have heard of David Amess. But within Parliament he was an admired and respected advocate for those he represented – whatever their political persuasion. David’s life was dedicated to public service, yet he cared little – or nothing – for the trappings of political office.
There are more of such good men and women – in all parties – than critics of parliament ever realise. They do not self-promote. They are neither know-it-alls, nor rent-a-quotes.
They shun hyperbole. They put people before party, and individuals before ideology. Such parliamentarians are the mainspring of Westminster, and the very best type of democrat. David Amess was amongst their very finest.
I first met David when he was elected in 1983, but my overwhelming memory is that of his victory at Basildon in the general election of 1992. I was sitting with family and friends watching the results – not knowing if I would return to Downing Street – when the cameras panned onto David and the other candidates on the platform, awaiting the announcement of the result.
A member of my group said, “Oh no. Look at his face. I think he’s lost.” I examined the screen more closely. “No,” I replied. “He’s won.” David’s unexpressive, even grim, demeanour looked to me like a man holding in his delight until the returning officer had spoken. And so it proved. And it was at that moment I knew the election would be won. It is an unforgettable memory of that election night, and David will always remain an indelible part of it.
David campaigned vigorously for Southend to be granted city status, and the granting of that will forever be his legacy. But a less tangible legacy is the way in which he conducted politics.
For very nearly 40 years, David graced the green benches with modesty; with tolerance; with decency; with dignity; and with humour. That, I hope, is how he will be remembered, and how – at Westminster and beyond – his legacy will live on.
“For very nearly 40 years, David graced the green benches with modesty; with tolerance; with decency; with dignity; and with humour”