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By Lord Forsyth
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'I will miss his support. I will miss our gossips.' Jackie Doyle-Price tribute to Sir David Amess

3 min read

“Who is this Price–Doyle woman and what am I doing here?” So said Sir David Amess on a campaign visit to Thurrock before the 2010 general election.

He didn’t think I had a cat in hell’s chance but dutifully he came, megaphone in hand. And there marked the beginning of our friendship. I am so going to miss the generous and thoughtful man who was such a good friend to me. I will miss his support. I will miss our gossips.

In the 38 years that he was a Member of the House of Commons he enjoyed the ringside seat he had to observe some seven prime ministers. For him, no one matched the first he witnessed

David adored Margaret Thatcher. In many ways he was the poster boy for “Essex man” and the politics that inspired those who wanted to get on in life, and who were not afraid of hard work. These were the people who won elections for the Conservatives in the 1980s, in rather the same way that the blue wall did in 2019. When he won Basildon from Labour in 1983, the Conservatives did not have a single councillor. But David led his band of followers from the front. And in 1992 the beaming face of a victorious David was the iconic image of the Conservatives’ fourth consecutive election victory, despite having been written off by Party HQ.  Less well known is that at the local elections weeks later the Conservatives won every seat. An amazing campaign led by an amazing campaigner.

"Alongside the charm and humour was a serious politician"

David had a wicked sense of humour. Indeed he could be quite naughty. On one overseas visit he had British embassy officials in a state of panic as he persuaded them that he was going to take two terrapins back home. As they tried to suggest this was not possible, he gently asked why they couldn’t be transported by diplomatic bag.

Alongside the charm and humour was a serious politician. He used his charm to disarm those who needed to hear tough messages. He had huge respect for Parliament and considered it a privilege to be a Member of Parliament. It was of profound disappointment to him that the respect in which Parliament is held has declined so much. He really didn’t like that the House of Commons had been diminished. It was something that had started under Tony Blair but steadily progressed under successive governments. Governments should welcome parliamentary scrutiny. There was too much effort to bypass it. As parliamentarians we should all hold that view.

David brought passion and dedication to the causes he championed.  He often campaigned on issues before they became fashionable. Fire safety and energy conservation for example. Once David gripped an issue he would run with it with just the same energy and commitment as he did on behalf of his constituents. The tributes paid to him from Southend illustrate the genuine affection and respect in which he was held. 

As he said in his book: “The overall majority of MPs do excellent work on behalf of their constituents but often pay a terrible price.”

David has paid the most terrible price of all.

That his wish for Southend to become a city is now being realised is such a tribute to him.  I wish we could all celebrate that with him. It would have been an occasion of great joy.

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