Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras and leader of the opposition
In the last few days, there have been many tributes to Sir David from politicians of all parties, from his constituents and members of the public, from friends and family and from faith leaders, especially the Catholic Church of which he was such a devoted follower. Each tribute paints its own picture of a committed public servant, of kindness and of a man whose decency touched everybody he met.
My hope is that this outpouring of love, thanks, and respect for David give his wife Julia and their children some small comfort. My thoughts are with them.
When I visited Southend on Saturday, I was struck by the affection and regard he was held in by everybody I met. He rejected ministerial office to focus on Southend and we remember his heroic battle to see it given city status.
This parliament that David so loved has lost one of its finest advocates, his colleagues have a lost a dear friend and the people of Southend have lost one of their own.
I am delighted that the Prime Minister has announced city status for Southend. It is a fitting tribute to Sir David’s hard work.
He was a dedicated constituency MP. He delivered for the causes he championed. He passed a bill that forced action on fuel poverty, he paved the way for better standards of fire safety and delivered protections for animal welfare. But no tribute that has emerged in recent days resonates more vividly than one from his former parliamentary staffer, Edward Holmes.
In his first job out of university, Holmes forgot to tell Sir David about an urgent call from the then-prime minister, David Cameron. He said he felt “terrified”. When he plucked up the courage to tell David, his response was typically laid back: “Don’t worry about that, Edward,” he said. So relaxed was David, that Mr Holmes says he suspects he never called the prime minister back.
And while I’m sure the current
Prime Minister joins me when I urge
MPs to not get too many ideas, I think we can agree it speaks volumes about the sort of character David was.
In the very same week, an invite to a charity duck race in his constituency went missing. David and his team spent the entire afternoon turning the office upside down trying to find it. That tells of a politician who had his priorities straight – one who put his people before his party and his patch before his personal advancement.
Even as a political opponent he was a man and a politician we could all learn much from. I use that phrase – “political opponent” – very deliberately. Because David held his beliefs passionately but gently. I believe that not only can we learn from that but that we have a duty to do so.
Civility in politics matters. Our democracy is precious, it has held firm against many tests but it is also a fragile, living thing. Let us use the memory of Sir David’s life and passions to nourish it, to recommit ourselves in standing for the things that he stood for, the things the extremists will never comprehend. For decency in our disagreements and kindness in our hearts. For our great democracy and for the hope that we can make our country and our world a better place.
“This Parliament that
David so loved has lost one of its finest advocates”