THURROCK MP Jackie Doyle Price rose on the floor of the House of Commons to pay tribute to Southend West MP David Amess who was killed last week.
Ms Doyle-Price said: “I think the whole House will be left in no doubt of the genuine affection in which Sir David’s constituents held him just by watching the TV footage this weekend. As a friend of his, I am hugely comforted by the genuine affection that has been shown today, in response, by hon. Members. For me, David was a great friend as well as great parliamentarian.
Last week, Sir David led a delegation of the Qatar all-party group on a visit to Qatar, and he led it with his characteristic good humour, dare I say great fun, and inclusivity. During the visit, we had the benefit of an audience with His Highness the Emir. As the meeting came to a close David, with a great flourish, referred to the need to present a gift, and with his characteristic self-deprecation, he said, “What could I give the man who has everything? Here is an inscribed copy of my book!” That was David.
I suggest that those hon. Members who have not yet read Sir David’s book go out and get a copy, because the proceeds go to some of the charities that he championed. Could I also say that, in actual fact, if they read the book it is the authentic voice of David, with his pen portraits, some of which are humorous and some of which are quite barbed? It is actually a great insight into Parliament from somebody who, as we have heard today, spent all of his career on the Back Benches, but he loved this place. He genuinely thought it was a privilege to be a Member of Parliament. He loved his work on the Panel of Chairs, he was proud of the legislation he had secured, there were the end-of-term Adjournment debates—they will never ever be the same again, will they?—and he may yet have become the Father of the House.
I believe there is a serious point here. In the 38 years Sir David served as a Member of Parliament, one of the things he lamented was the decline in the respect for this institution and for the Members within it. The reason he lamented it was that he felt our constituents were the poorer for it, because as that respect declined we just became inconveniences to be managed by public authorities, rather than the genuine voice of challenge. I think that if we do anything to remember him, that is something he would wish us to work collectively to address, as that is what makes this place worthwhile.
In reflecting on Sir David’s memory, we must not remember the way in which his life was taken, but remember how he lived. His beaming face in 1992, when his victory marked a fourth election victory for the Conservatives, is of course iconic. However, I should say to the House that his biggest pride was not actually that result, but the one in 1983, when he won Basildon for the first time—a victory as much against the odds as the one in 1992. I would say that he held Basildon as a marginal seat for all that time because he was an amazing campaigner. He had time for everyone, as we have heard, and his megaphone was never too far away. I have to say that we enjoyed some visits by David and his megaphone in Thurrock over the years, and it was always great fun.
As an east ender, Sir David instinctively represented the politics of south Essex. He would describe himself as a working-class Conservative, and he very much epitomised the kind of person who embraced the politics of Margaret Thatcher. He would recount with great pride the occasion when, after everyone had written off his election prospects in 1992, it was Margaret Thatcher who came on the eve of the poll to support him, and he credited part of his victory to that.
Our thoughts are obviously now with Sir David’s family. Just as a final note, the last time I went to David’s house he was proudly showing me his wedding video. The reason he was doing so was not just to show me my hon. Friend Miss Dines and her dancing back in those days in 1983—he was hugely proud that she got here too—but that the exact wedding he had to Julia in 1983 at Westminster cathedral and then a reception here was what he repeated for his daughter only a few weeks ago. I hope the whole family receives some comfort from the fact that we all loved him.