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UK politics in shock as Conservative MP stabbed to death

David Amess was attacked inside a church

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 15, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
Posted: Oct 15, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago

Photo: AFP

British lawmaker David Amess was killed on Friday after being stabbed multiple times, according to police, in the second death of a UK politician while meeting voters since 2016.

The pro-Brexit Conservative MP, 69, a father-of-five first elected to parliament in 1983, was attacked inside a church while holding a fortnightly consultation with his local constituents in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.

Essex police said a 25-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered at the scene. 

They said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident. 

Flags were lowered to half-mast outside parliament and tributes poured in from across the political spectrum for Amess, whose death came just over five years after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a far-right extremist.

In a book last year called “Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster”, Amess noted that Cox’s death had prompted new security guidance to MPs which threatened to limit their access to constituents. 

“I myself have over the years experienced nuisance from the odd member of the general public at my own property,” he wrote.

“These increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was chairing a meeting with senior ministers in the west of England but promptly returned to London following news of the incident.

“The reason I think people are so shocked and saddened is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics,” he said of Amess, calling him “a much-loved friend and colleague” and “a fine public servant”.

Security review

Former prime minister Theresa May said it was “a tragic day for our democracy”.

“A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties,” she added. 

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer called the news “horrific and deeply shocking”, while House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Amess had “built a reputation for kindness” during his long career as an MP.

“In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues,” Hoyle added.

In January 2000, Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones was wounded and his assistant killed by a man wielding a ceremonial sword at a constituency “surgery”.

Pro-EU MP Cox was killed in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, while another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, was stabbed multiple times during an event in 2010 but recovered and is still a lawmaker.

Timms said he was “appalled” at this latest attack. Cox’s widower Brendan said the stabbing of Amess was “as cowardly as it gets”. 

“Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification,” he said.

Armed response

Essex police said officers had responded to “reports of a stabbing” shortly after 12:05 pm (1105 GMT) and arrived to find a man injured.

“He was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene,” the force said. 

Amess, first elected during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure and known for his advocacy of animal welfare and pro-life issues, had advertised his upcoming surgery at the Belfairs Methodist Church in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea.

Paul Gardiner, 41, a barber at One Barbers Leigh-On-Sea, told AFP that “armed police and an ambulance” were swiftly on the scene.

“I saw a policeman with a gun,” he said. “It was worrying.”

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith echoed concerns about the security risk at MPs’ local “surgeries”.

“When you’re not in your office, and you’re in a public place… that means essentially, that the levels of security that sometimes you’re advised to take can’t be taken,” he tweeted.

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