‘He was Southend’: tributes to slain British lawmaker



LEIGH-ON-SEA, England (AP) – Leaders from all political backgrounds gathered on Saturday to pay tribute to a longtime British lawmaker who was stabbed to death in what police described as a terrorist attack. His death reopened questions about the safety of lawmakers in their work.

The murder of 69-year-old Tory MP David Amess on Friday in a regular meeting with local voters caused shock and anxiety across the UK political spectrum, just five years after the party’s lawmaker Labor Jo Cox was assassinated by a far right extremist. in his small constituency.

“He was killed doing a job he loves, serving his own constituents as an elected Democratic member and of course the acts to that end are absolutely wrong, and we can’t let that get in the way. of our democracy, “said the UK Home Secretary. Priti Patel said after joining others, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to pay tribute to Amess at the church where he died.

Patel said she had called meetings with the Speaker of the House of Commons, UK police and security services “to ensure that all measures are in place for the safety of Members so that they can exercise their functions as a democratic elected member. “

On Saturday, echoing the political unity that emerged after Cox’s murder, Johnson of the Tories, opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer, and non-partisan speaker Lindsay Hoyle arrived at the church where Amess died and flowers were laid.

Amess was attacked around noon on Friday during his constituency meeting at a church in Leigh-on-Sea, a town 62 kilometers east of London. He suffered several stab wounds. Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to save him. Police arrested a 25-year-old Briton for the attack.

The Metropolitan Police described the attack as terrorism and said their first investigation “revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.” He did not provide details based on that assessment. As part of the investigation, officers searched two locations in the London area.

Amess, who leaves behind a wife and five children and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015, has died doing an important part of his job – helping the residents of his seaside constituency of Southend West, which includes Leigh- on-Sea.

In the UK parliamentary system, lawmakers have direct links with their local constituents, often holding open meetings or ‘surgeries’. Meetings are often held at local facilities such as churches and community halls, and are announced publicly. Amess himself posted online where he would host his operation on Friday. It was open to everyone.

“The reason he wanted to use the church was because he wanted to be where the people were,” Reverend Clifford Newman said at the Methodist Church in Belfairs where Amess was killed.

“And if you come somewhere in the locality like Belfairs, as opposed to an ivory tower somewhere, people are more likely to feel easier, more free and more likely to open up to him,” a- he added.

At meetings, topics discussed can range from national issues such as the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to more mundane issues such as requests for speed bumps on busy roads or a dispute over a neighbor’s fence. . While MPs do not necessarily have the power to resolve issues directly, they can lobby officials at the national and local levels to get things done.

“I feel like I have lost a member of my family. I feel like he was Southend’s family, he was the leader of Southend, ”said Erica Keane, 69, a resident. “And he was everywhere! He was on the football fields, he was in choirs, he was in pubs. He was everywhere and he was Southend.

Amess was clearly a popular lawmaker, winning 10 out of 10 elections since he was first sent to parliament in 1983. He was a social conservative on capital punishment and abortion. Although he was never a government minister, Amess was seen as a mender, a lawmaker capable of forging alliances across political divisions.

Friday’s murder rekindled concerns about the risks politicians run in their work to represent voters. British politicians generally do not enjoy police protection when meeting their constituents, unlike high security measures in place in Parliament.

But the vitriol directed against them has intensified in recent years, with many blaming the more polarized atmosphere on social media and the political divisions stoked by Britain’s recent departure from the European Union.

“As MPs we want to be accessible and affordable, but recently there has been more and more violent abuse,” Labor lawmaker Tanmanjeet Dhesi said.

Tobias Ellwood, a prominent Tory lawmaker who provided first aid to a stabbed police officer at the gates of Parliament in 2017, has said face-to-face meetings with voters should be temporarily suspended and replaced with online interactions.

Veteran Labor lawmaker Harriet Harman also said she plans to write to Johnson asking him to support a non-partisan conference to review the safety of parliamentarians.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be in a situation where the police are controlling the individual voters who come to see us, but I’m sure there is a safer way to do our business,” Harman told BBC radio. .

“Since the tragic murder of Jo Cox we have had changes in the security of our home, we have had changes in the security in Parliament, but we have not considered how we proceed with this important matter in our constituency, but not safe, “Harman said.” I think we have to do it now. ”

Last year, in her own book “Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster”, Amess wrote about how Cox was murdered “in the most barbaric way imaginable” and how security concerns could spoil ” the great British tradition of ‘voters’ easy access to their elected leaders.

He warned that “it could happen to any of us.”


Pylas contributed from London. Jo Kearney in Leigh-on-sea also contributed to this report.

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