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Sir David Amess: MP of conviction and animal rights champion

A devoted politician from a humble background who tirelessly campaigned for his constituents

Marcus Williamson
Saturday 16 October 2021 13:29 BST
Amess was one of Westminster’s longest-serving MPs
Amess was one of Westminster’s longest-serving MPs (Getty)

Sir David Amess was the Conservative MP for Southend West and one of Westminster’s longest-serving parliamentarians. A man of considerable conviction, he campaigned for animal rights, opposed abortion, and was a staunch Brexiteer.

Amess, who has died aged 69 after being fatally stabbed at his constituency surgery, served as an MP for 38 years. Earlier in his career, he was parliamentary private secretary to ministers Michael Portillo and Edwina Currie in the Eighties.

Amess was born in Plaistow, Essex, in 1952, the son of working-class parents. He later wrote about how his modest upbringing had made him “determined to achieve as much of myself as I possibly could, in spite of the fact that I came from a relatively humble background”.

He joined the Conservative Party aged 16, and initially trained as a teacher, working at a primary school in Bethnal Green. But Amess would soon pursue his passion for politics, being first elected as MP for the Basildon constituency in Essex in 1983.

Following boundary changes, in 1997 he stood for and won the Southend West constituency. At the most recent 2019 general election he was elected for the seventh time to the seat, with a large majority.

Amess had been especially active in campaigning on behalf of his constituents on issues of local importance. Only last month, for example, he had spoken in parliament during Business Questions in support of a pension increase for pre-1997 Ford workers, asking for “a debate on discretionary increases in pensions for Ford employees pre-1997” and saying: “These women and men gave a great deal of their time to the company, and they deserve better treatment than they seem to be afforded at the moment.”

At the Conservative Party conference earlier this month, he met with representatives from the Alzheimer’s Society, supporting their Cure the Care System campaign, saying at the time: “I will continue working with them on their campaign to ensure that social care reforms brought forward by the government meet the needs of the 2,820 people living with dementia in Southend-on-Sea, which is projected to rise to 3,760 by 2030.”

Amess in Westminster in 1990 (PA)

On the wider stage, Amess was the sponsor of bills including the Abortion (Amendment) Bill (1996-7) and what became the Protection against Cruel Tethering Act (1988), which protects horses, asses and mules. Consistent with his stance on opposing animal suffering, he also voted in favour of the ban on fox hunting.

In 1999 Amess introduced a bill to take action on home heating, in a quest to reduce fuel poverty. His bill passed successfully through the Commons and Lords, becoming the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, a law whose provisions are now of particular relevance at a time of increasing fuel prices.

He was a keen supporter of Brexit, explaining in 2016 that, in his opinion: “The most worrying development in the history of our relationship with the European Union has been the loss of parliamentary sovereignty. Over 55 per cent of our laws are imposed by Brussels and the European Court ... the majority voting rules mean that we cannot veto any laws that we feel would be damaging to our society or economy.”

Amess was knighted in the 2015 new year honours list for his political and public service. In December last year he published Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, based on his many years of experience, in which he sought to reveal the inner workings of parliament and the people who work there.

On 15 October, Amess was running a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, when he was stabbed “several times”, according to John Lamb, a local councillor who was present. He died at the scene.

Amess is survived by his wife, Julia Arnold, and their five children, David, Katherine, Sarah, Alexandra and Florence.

Sir David Amess, politician, born 26 March 1952, died 15 October 2021

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