“It was practically impossible not to get on with David” - Paula Sherriff pays tribute to Sir David Amess
Vigil held for Sir David Amess at St Michael & All Angels church, Leigh-on-Sea. Credit: Alamy.
It would be perfectly fair to describe the friendship that David Amess and I enjoyed, as “unlikely”. On paper, we were poles apart although we shared a Catholic faith - mine somewhat lapsed - and a great love of animals, particularly dogs.
We bonded, when in 2017 we were both part of an overseas delegation to Qatar. I hadn’t had much to do with David prior to that but he was simply the best companion imaginable; kind, gentlemanly, so generous with his time, charismatic and above all funny. He had us in stitches throughout, from asking the Emir whether he enjoyed Love Island to impromptu camel rides, to him and I plotting to release caged dogs at the local market (we didn’t!)
Funnily enough, David and I never really talked partisan politics; with the benefit of hindsight maybe that’s the reason why our friendship worked so well. His face particularly lit up when he talked about two things; his family whom he so obviously adored, and his beloved Southend.
In the Commons, where he would persistently call for Southend to be given “city status” I used to laugh and good naturedly roll my eyes. I sincerely hope that his desire for this can be realised. It would form part of a fitting legacy for “Mr Southend.”
I did a lot of work on women’s health and I was so proud of him when he told me he was establishing an all party group on endometriosis. He had been contacted by a constituent who suffered from this debilitating condition and was so moved by her story, he was determined to do everything within his power to help.
At the inaugural meeting, I told the group how, when I had been investigated for the condition, I had worked at the hospital where I was being treated. I would occasionally bump into my gynaecologist in the canteen and I explained that I hoped it was my face he recognised! David thought this quip was absolutely hilarious and to this day, I remember him laughing for ages.
He kept in touch with me after I’d lost my seat in the 2019, telling me that upon meeting my Tory successor he introduced himself as a great friend of mine and informing him I would be a hard act to follow!
When I was diagnosed with cancer in march 2020, he sent flowers and would text to see how my treatment was progressing.
He met up with a close friend of mine in Manchester at the recent party conference and enquired if I could meet up for drink. It pains me beyond belief that I couldn’t make it. He told my friend to tell me that “he loved me to bits.”
It was practically impossible not to get on with David and I know his loss will be felt so acutely throughout Parliament and of course, in his constituency. The people of Southend West have lost a champion, a powerful advocate and the most kind-hearted man. I always felt you could tell a lot about a person from the way they treated the House of Commons staff and, true to form, David was always polite and kind; his trademark smile ever present.
Our country and indeed, our Parliament are far poorer for David’s passing.
Personally, I will never forget his kindness and the camaraderie and laughter we shared.
He was one of a kind and I adored him.
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