'He was one of life’s optimists: kind, big-hearted and generous'. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle pays Tribute to Sir David Amess
I 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 on Monday – 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.
Most MPs are like David and Jo – good, decent people who work hard, who love helping their constituents and representing them in Parliament
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, does 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 have 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.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley and Speaker of the House of Commons.
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