Paying tribute to David Amess
I learned earlier today that Sir David Amess MP had been stabbed, and later died, when conducting a constituency surgery (for bio and reports on what happened and blogs I wrote: check out references below). While not my MP (Sir David represented the west side of Southend; I live in the east side), I had a lot to do with him over the years and our interactions were invariably positive and productive.
My reaction on learning the news, like many, was shock and sadness. Sir David’s death has touched all sorts, going by the tributes reported in mainstream media and the posts and comments on Facebook. Two common thoughts were horror that he should be killed while doing his job and that despite opposing him politically he was held in high esteem. Moreover, many recall how they had previously interacted with Sir David and that doing so did make a difference. Given the breadth of his involvement, one is left in no doubt that his contribution as a constituency MP was formidable, well intentioned and effective, and that he championed Southend-on-Sea, including doing his bit to try to get the town city status. I have learned over the years that he was a good constituency MP and surprisingly championed the cause of the underdog, including recent immigrants and the homeless (evidenced by his support for HARP, SVP, Off the Streets). While areas of political disagreement, he was someone with who one could agree to disagree. Unlike with some, I was pleased he was pro Brexit and did not go along with the wokeism of the day, and while not “anti jab” respected peoples’ right to choose. I loved his pro-life, traditional family stance and that his faith was a driving force when it came to him following what was a lonely path and continuing to stick with his principles. No doubt, his support for Israel and the persecuted church was faith inspired.
No doubt others will compile what were his contributions and appraise how effective these were, but this is my tribute. I first met him in the early 2000’s when he supported a charity I was involved in (Trust Links) and a cause close to my heart (mental health) – which I understand has been ongoing. Around that time, my wife, who is a nurse at Southend Hospital, also met him and did so a number of times after. After that, I met with him often in unusual settings, simply because our interests clashed. He was a patron of an organisation for putting on community events I helped organise. We were at the opening of one of the local mosques, along with my all-time favourite MP, Teddy Taylor, and one item of banter was what constituted a conservative. I met him on his campaign trails, like when he managed to get the help of Ann Widdecombe. I confided Ann was my favorite politician and he offered to set up a meeting. When knighted, and I began to call him Sir, he was charmingly self-effacing. We chatted at a recent hustings (having been impressed with his responses to some rather probing questions) and the last time we met was when I bumped into him shopping at a local supermarket and exchanged customary pleasantries. I invariably went away from these brief encounters feeling uplifted. His great gift, for which he will be remembered, is he affirmed people!
Sir David will be always fondly remembered for many reasons, not least his winsome ways and his positive approach to life, and given what we now know, even if he did not progress beyond the back benches, he did make a difference. His love for Southend and its residents was truly infectious. It also struck me that whatever dirt was thrown at him, and a lot was, he could still emerge undaunted, smelling of roses, for such was the character of the man. Given his ability to get along with and earn the respect of his opponents, he set an example as to how contentious matters need not be matters for falling out and can be dealt with. As an aside, in preparing this tribute and checking out his political beliefs, I found some I strongly agreed with (often on subjects some of those who opposed his politics but who generously payed tribute, disagreed) and some I strongly disagreed with (I was disappointed, for example, that he was so dismissive of Donald Trump and failed to see what I see), but the great thing was he made his points intelligently, courteously and without acrimony. If he had a a weakness, he believed people were basically decent and well meaning, which imho is NOT the case when it comes to a small number of psychopaths, often in powerful positions, who should be called out. It should be noted that he did have harsh things to say about certain people and the converse applied, but this is not the time to pontificate over such matters, other than to remark he had his foibles like us all but he was a real man and one that went that extra mile to make a difference. In a day when Parliamentary democracy is under scrutiny and in many instances disrespected, Sir David showed how things could be.
One thing David understood was that people approach their MP, sometimes when all other avenues failed, in order to sort out some seemingly insurmountable problem. He no doubt realised he did not hold a magic wand, but patiently listening to whoever approached him and doing the little he could, including raising constituency matters in Parliament, he was able to and did make an enormous difference, not least by encouraging those who are serving their community. His untimely death was a tragic loss for us all. We honour his life and remember his family, friends, colleagues and even opponents who have been shaken and affected by his death.
Update 18/10/21: Tributes have continued to pour in from those from all sectors of the community concerning the difference David made to his community and the nation. One fitting tribute that we have learned of today is that Southend has been granted city status, something David had long and enthusiastically campaigned for.
Update 22/11/21: I have just been listening to his funeral service and it was a wonderful occasion with many continuing to pay their respects. One tribute I loved from the service was that as a Parliamentarian he never forgot that he was elected to serve his constituents, not the other way round. Having followed what happens in Parliament for much of my life, he still has my champagne moment when in the early days he took Tony Blair to task for promoting devolution but not supporting the Northern Irish when it came to the matter of abortion. I told him this when we first met, and he needed to be his own man – advice he clearly followed. Following his example, like many, I am inspired to serve others.
The Needlefish Podcast – A survivor’s guide to politics and parliament with Sir David Amess, MP
Sir David Amess: Southend to become a city in honour of MP