When I read in yesterday’s news rounds that local MP David Amess had received a knighthood, I was pleasantly surprised and I had no hesitation dropping him a line: “Congratulations Sir David on your award just announced. God bless and Happy New Year“. In doing so, I was taking a leaf out of my friend, Julian Ware-Lane, book, Sir David’s likely main opponent in the General Election later in the year. Not everyone was quite as generous, as fellow Labour activist, Matthew Dent, blog shows or if comments by my Green activist friend, Simon Cross, is anything to go by, declaring his disdain that David Amess had milked the expense system and in a time of austerity that especially untowardly affects those most worse off.
I should make it first clear that if I did live in Southend West, I would not be voting for David. The ability that his long time political friend and fellow knight, Teddy Taylor (long time my own MP), of being able to attract my vote despite my own Conservative misgivings, is not one I feel that David shares. But credit where credit is due! I first met David in my early days as a community worker and found him to be affable and supportive, as I have on the several occasions since then when I have met with him. He seems to operate effectively in Parliament and works for his constituents.
He is far from perfect and as for the matter of claiming too much regarding expenses, despite not acting illegally, he has still failed to tell us why. He doesn’t always get it right – I wonder if his recent public attack on leaders of our local hospital was quite the right way to deal with this serious matter. He is clearly a survivor with the knack of managing to dodge awkward questions, and coming out smelling of roses if dragged through the mud, with a gift of self publicity, invariably remaining charming, and a person I have found I have been all too happy to engage with. For he has done a great deal of good and, while I am a firm believer that the honour’s system too often honours the wrong people and fails to honour the right ones, he should be honoured for the good that he has done.
Two things, I doubt few readers would even be aware of, but has raised him in my own estimation. Many years ago, under Tony Blair’s Labour, David Amess asked Mr Blair a question, which was one of the best go for the jugular moments I have been privileged to witness, and woefully inadequately responded to – why was it that while he (Blair) was claiming to support the notion that people in Northern Ireland should have more say as to how the country was to be run yet not allow them a say on the matter of abortion, which the majority were opposed to? The other matter, I only learnt of today, was his support for Korean Christian visitors wanting to contribute to the community, which others better placed failed to give.
Regarding the expense matter, let me recount a personal story which makes me realise things may not always be as they seem, although I have no doubt that too many who have money manage to find ways to make more even when they don’t merit it, leaving others who are more needy consigned to destitution. Besides which, the system of wealth distribution is seriously flawed. I lack confidence in David and his party to change this. As a software professional, I sometimes traveled overseas and needed to submit expense claims on my return. On one of my early trips, I managed to lose a very nice pen in the line of duty and felt I should claim for the loss. My boss rejected the claim but told a story of someone else whose claim was rejected, and this was because he claimed for the loss of a hat. That person resubmitted his claim for more than the original amount asked for and without including the hat, but adding the remark “now find the hat“. Thus inspired, I followed suit. Whether or not this resonates with Sir David’s situation, I can’t say, but I would like some assurance that his expense claim represents need and not greed.
But back to Sir David Amess MP, I agree with Julian, who wrote: “despite our political differences I acknowledge his industry and longevity as a politician, and I hope he enjoys the accolade“. I look forward to further productive community engagements with Sir David in the years ahead and wish him well in his future life and career and, along with all my readers, a Happy New Year.