'Our Parliament is a poorer and sadder place without him'. Priti Patel pays tribute to Sir David Amess
For those of us in the Conservative Party who came of age politically in the late 1980s or early 1990s, David Amess has long held legendary status.
Having won Basildon against the odds in 1983, the victory which confirmed that 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.
And 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.
And he never lost those down to earth values you find in 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 of him 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.
Despite his nearly four decades in Parliament, David always remained a grassroots Tory to his fingertips
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. And 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 us how backbench MPs can get things done and move issues higher up the political agenda.
David also 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 has given to me since I entered Parliament. In those early days, David was an immense support in helping to navigate the workings of the House of Commons and parliamentary debates. Those little words of advice, anecdotes from his parliamentary career and pats on the back helped to calm nerves and give me confidence. He didn’t just do this to be polite; he did it because he was kind, caring and decent.
And in the chamber itself, his presence on the green benches always added both gravitas and humour to our 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.
When I visited Southend on Saturday, the warmth, admiration, respect and appreciation for David from those he represented was palpable - a community in mourning, robbed of its parliamentary champion in such a senseless attack.
He was taken from us and his beloved family while doing the job he loved, diligently carrying out the duties of a constituency MP.
As David recounted himself in an interview earlier this year: “My pride and joy is when you can help and make a real different for someone’s life. You don’t get any publicity for it, but you can. There are so many things that you can do that can transform people’s lives.”
And that’s exactly what David did.
Our Parliament is a poorer and sadder place without him, and my thoughts and prayers are with Julia and his children.
Priti Patel is the Conservative MP for Witham and the Home Secretary.
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