The prime minister’s remarks followed a minute’s silence in the Commons chamber for the Conservative MP, who was killed while conducting a constituency surgery on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
In his statement, Mr Johnson said the 69-year-old was taken “in a contemptible act of violence”, but insisted: “We will not allow the manner of Sir David’s death to detract from his accomplishments as a politician or a human being.”
Paying tribute to the “bulging folder” held by Sir David on the accomplishments of Southend, he added: “He never once witnessed any achievement by any resident of Southend that could not somehow be cited in his bid to secure city status for that distinguished town.”
In an announcement that Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, had predicted was “inevitable” over the weekend, Mr Johnson went on: “I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserved.”
Since his death on Friday, many MPs and ministers have recalled Sir David’s efforts and energy in ceaselessly campaigning for the Essex town on the Thames estuary to be designated a city.
Speaking to the BBC shortly before his death, Sir David said: “If the House of Commons wants to shut me up from being the city bore, then they are going to have to grant it to us.
“I’ve spent all my time mentioning it at every conceivable opportunity. It is a no-brainer. The benefits are enormous, frankly.”
Opening tributes, the prime minister also told MPs: “The passing of 72 hours has done little to numb the shock and sadness we all felt when we heard of the tragic and senseless death of Sir David Amess.
“This house has lost a steadfast servant, we’ve lost a dear friend and colleague, and [Sir David’s widow] Julia and her children have lost a loving husband and a devoted father. Nothing I or anyone else can say can lessen the pain, the grief, the anger they must feel at this darkest of times.”
Sir Keir Starmer described the decision to grant Southend city status as a “fitting tribute” to Sir David, saying that on behalf of Labour he wanted to acknowledge the pain felt on the opposite benches, as he remembered how “acutely” the loss of MP Jo Cox was felt in 2016.
Friday’s attack has also led to renewed scrutiny of politicians’ safety. Priti Patel, the home secretary, has ordered a review of security arrangements for MPs, which will conclude in the “next few days”.
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