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So shocked over this brutal death

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On Friday I had finished a meeting on housing developments in King’s Lynn, was replying to constituency casework, and thinking ahead to the return to Westminster after a busy week visiting local schools, charities, and businesses.

Then I heard the terrible news that Sir David Amess MP, a friend and colleague, had been killed in a brutal attack.

My initial reaction was total shock and then huge sadness. That someone could do this to one of the kindest, warmest, most generous, and humorous people in Parliament is appalling.

A candle and a photo of Sir David Amess greeted mourners at a vigil in Essex. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA (52467566)
A candle and a photo of Sir David Amess greeted mourners at a vigil in Essex. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA (52467566)

A man who in nearly 40 years of public service was dedicated every day to helping his constituents and championing his area. It reminded me of when I heard that Jo Cox MP had been murdered.

That two MPs have been killed doing their jobs in five years, with savage attacks on other members in recent times, is truly shocking.

The tributes in the House of Commons to Sir David underlined what a remarkable person he was. MPs from all parties spoke warmly of their personal experiences of him. Of his success from the backbenches in passing legislation on subjects as diverse as animal welfare, fuel poverty, and the registration of driving instructors. He was also a committed campaigner for children with learning disabilities.

It was fitting that in opening the tributes the Prime Minister announced that the Queen had agreed that Southend should be accorded city status – one of David’s most long-running and good-natured campaign.

Above all David was committed to his family and it is they who are in my thoughts, along with his staff, friends, and constituents.

I was fortunate to have known David. Our paths first crossed on the all-party group on fairs and showgrounds. I also have fond memories of interviewing him in the summer about his recent book “Eyes and Ears” about his time in Westminster. His typically amusing opener was, “Now James, someone told me you are sleeping with a member of the Cabinet.” I was able to reassure him that as we are married it is positively encouraged. We also enjoyed banter about a trip I had made to watch Norwich play Southend, although I had to report that the chants were about the then town being something other than a city.

After such terrible events there have been calls for a more civilised public debate and how people in public life are treated. Sadly MPs – along with others in the public eye – continue to experience abuse and threats through emails, on social media, as well as in person. People sometimes ask why MPs use tools on Facebook and Twitter to control comments – the truth is because of the hostility and negativity that is there otherwise.

In my experience MPs stand for election to help people, to stand up for their area, to serve the public. That’s what motivated Sir David and we need people like him. Following his death, Sir David’s family called on people to “show kindness and love to all … Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness.” Let’s heed that call.

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