'He had an incredible sense of humour which never dampened'. Robert Halfon pays tribute to Sir David Amess
Sir David Amess was a remarkable man. Embodying the true values of an Essex man – decency, hard work and a social entrepreneur – he was the original blue-collar Conservative.
It is hard to believe that such a kind, and good man, was taken from us in this cruel way.
I do not think Sir David would want us to be cowed by this horrific tragedy. Nor our interactions with constituents to be carried out solely on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. For Sir David, the whole point of being an MP was being with and amongst the people he cared for so deeply.
This is because Sir David embodied a truth: that being an MP is not just a job, it is a vocation. He recognised that being elected, and the honour of serving your constituents, however you can, is a way of life.
He campaigned relentlessly on behalf of Southend West – to cut the cost of living, to combat fuel poverty, to improve education for its children and young people and, of course, for it to be granted city status.
Better than most, he understood the importance for us as Conservatives to continue to build and support the ladder of opportunity. He wanted to provide people with the agency to improve their own situations, but he fought tirelessly to make sure the state-provided safety net was in place to catch anyone who lost their step on the way up.
Sir David embodied a truth: that being an MP is not just a job, it is a vocation
One of the fondest memories I have of Sir David was during a visit to Jerusalem hosted by the Conservative Friends of Israel. We were discussing the next day’s itinerary which included a trip to the sea of Galilee. Sir David said to me that during this trip he would make sure that I would fully understand what the Sermon on the Mount was all about.
As we got on the minibus to begin the journey, I spotted that Sir David had borrowed a large white sheet from his hotel room. Upon questioning him about why he had brought this with him, with a smile, I was told to “wait and see”.
Later that day we arrived at the sacred spot. Moved by the historical significance of the location, I was momentarily distracted. I turned around and suddenly, there appeared a biblical figure shrouded in white, walking around.
It was none other than David Amess who was attempting to provide me with a literal visualisation as to what happened many thousands of years ago. In the midst of our laughter, I remember spotting a few Japanese tourists being shocked by this apparition, wondering what on earth was going on and perhaps thinking that the Messiah had arrived.
This was typical of Sir David. Not only was he one of the kindest and most compassionate MPs I have ever met, he had an incredible sense of humour which never dampened, no matter what the situation.
Later that afternoon, we returned to the city to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sir David got out of our minibus and promptly threw up in a plant pot outside the building. This was not because he was making a statement about his view on Middle Eastern politics, but more because of the slightly dodgy kebab we had eaten for lunch.
Despite the unprompted nausea, it was a truly wonderful experience to visit Israel with Sir David. For many years he was a friend both of Israel and of the Jewish people. Indeed, he spoke many times in Parliament against anti-Semitism.
And he wasn’t just friends with the great and the good. He helped me when I first became a parliamentary candidate in Harlow in 1999, coming to speak on the “Keep The Pound” lorry in 2001.
All of us in Parliament will never forget him. I will do my part to ensure I honour his memory in every way I can.
Robert Halfon is Conservative MP for Harlow and chair of the Education Select Committee
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.