David Amess: From horseback riding to the open top bus, how the ’11 year old MP’ never hid from the public
An arch-Thatcherite who opposed abortion and same-sex marriage and campaigned for Brexit, Sir David Amess was not a natural ally of the left.
But his murder at the age of 69 has sparked a wave of grief from MPs from all walks of politics, who remember his warm ways and dedication to his constituents.
During his 38 years as an MP – a job he had wanted since he was 11 – he was never a minister, but instead devoted his time to campaign issues and his seat in the Essex.
First Member of Parliament for Basildon from 1983 to 1997, then for Southend West, Sir David forged campaign alliances with MPs from other parties.
Ahead of his time on key issues although he avowed himself as a “dinosaur,” he campaigned on animal rights in the 1980s, fueled poverty in the 1990s and more recently the plight of people with endometriosis.
His violent death prompted questions as to whether MPs should continue face-to-face surgeries – but Sir David’s response has reportedly been firm.
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In his book Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster – published last November – he lamented that the “growing attacks” on MPs have “spoiled the great British tradition” of meeting face to face.
The book gives a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man who was ultra-traditional but loved a publicity stunt; a career deputy but resisted the fatty pole.
He came to Parliament on horseback to campaign against cruel tether. Knighted in 2015, he dressed in armor astride a horse for celebrations at a school in his constituency hosted by the Knights of central England.
He has also gained cult following after repeatedly speaking out about his mother to the Prime Minister’s Questions and his relentless campaign for Southend to be named a town.
The MP was born in 1952 in east London without a refrigerator, phone or car, settling instead for an outhouse and a pewter tub hung on the outside wall.
His mother took him to a speech-language pathologist for two and a half years to help him pronounce “st” and “th” – treatment he said was essential to his future career.
In his high school, he ran in mock elections for his own “Revolutionary Party,” pledging to abolish homework and set a national minimum pocket money allowance.
“I got to a point where I found myself at the top of a fire escape in the playground, speaking to a lot of the school,” he wrote.
The soapbox spirit would not be lost. During the election campaigns, he got on an open-top bus decorated with a Union flag and sang his own song: “If you want to be really blue and express your views, then David Amess is the only one. man for you ”.
He joined the Tories at the age of 16 after concluding that the local Labor Party was responsible for ‘neglected’ roads and ‘dilapidated’ housing – and has never looked back.
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Clive Limpkin / ANL / REX / Shutterstock)
He said Tony Blair had “blood on his hands” from the “appalling deception” of going to war in Iraq – while praising Margaret Thatcher, to whom he personally delivered flowers when she went to war in Iraq. claimed the leadership of the Conservatives.
“She changed the Conservative Party, our country and the world for the better,” he proclaimed in his book.
Sir David, who called himself a “self-confessed dinosaur,” defended old-fashioned Commons sittings until 2 a.m. on grounds that they brought MPs closer together, praised the lost art of filibuster systematic and lamented the decision to televise the Commons in 1989.
He also denounced the coverage of the spending scandal, saying it had “destroyed” the reputation of Parliament and asking: “What good has all of this been for? “
But he received praise for his unwavering dedication to his constituents.
Ed Holmes, who worked with the MP, said on Twitter how it “couldn’t have bothered him any less” that the staff forgot to respond to then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
By comparison, when an invitation to the Leigh Duck Race went missing, “nothing was more important. We spent the whole afternoon turning the office upside down trying to find it.
He added, “When he heard that someone he knew in the constituency was seriously ill, he called everyone he could think of.
“I remember listening to him late at night on the phone with some of the most experienced doctors in the country, cuddling them, begging them to intervene.”
Sir David’s book highlights the importance of his good door-to-door campaign, led for many years by MP Mark Francois – whom Sir David has dubbed “Little Hitler”.
Sir David wrote that at every social event he tried to please everyone in the room – never seeing his area as a “safe seat”.
These tactics gained prominence in the 1992 general election, when his early victory at Basildon marked the start of a surprise victory for then Prime Minister John Major.
EssexLive / BPM)
He writes in his memoir: “When I go down to my grave, because I intend to be buried and not cremated, I will probably be remembered, if so, for the election campaign of 1992. “
He was duped by Channel 4’s Brass Eye into condemning a fake drug called “cake” after Leah Betts died in her constituency.
To this day, he has not forgiven the show, writing in his book, “How can you laugh at such a serious problem?
Sir David was less than friendly to the media, lambasting the “naivety” of MPs who were convinced by reporters to share secrets.
He suggested that parts of the media “are almost entirely responsible” for inciting “dangerous and vitriolic abuses” against MPs.
“It seems that more and more regularly, some members of the press are attacking politicians personally rather than properly criticizing their policies and their ideology,” he wrote.
“They have a lot to answer and must share some responsibility for the anger directed at MPs that can end in such tragic circumstances.
“While it’s easy to say it’s all part of the job, does it really have to be?” “
In his book, Sir David was also very worried about some MPs, describing some as “just plain stupid” and others as career climbers.
But he praised people as diverse as Tony Benn to Enoch Powell, whom he called a “great patriot”, “putting aside the rhetoric of rivers of blood.”
And as a colleague his warmth was remembered – including by former Labor MP Paula Sherriff, whom he helped diagnose with cancer.
“He was the epitome of a gentleman, he was quite old fashioned, he was very respectful and so chivalrous,” she told the Mirror.
“I’m very partisan and I guess somehow I tried to resist liking him so much because, ‘Oh, he was a conservative.’ But you couldn’t help yourself – you couldn’t help but love him, he was absolutely contagious.
Committed Brexiteer, fervent Catholic and avid animal lover, he fought for “pro-life” and animal welfare issues. He was responsible for the introduction of the Cruel Tethering Protection Act in 1988.
He also campaigned to stop testing of household products on animals, tackled the illegal wildlife trade and fought for an end to puppy breeding, according to his website.
He opposed the culling of badgers and was one of the few Conservative MPs in favor of a ban on fox hunting.
In his last intervention in the House of Commons, on September 23, he called for a debate on “animal welfare in general, cruelty to animals and the welfare of backyard animals” to mark the World Animal Day October 4.
He was a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and won the Dods Animal Welfare and Environment Award in 2011 for his work on the issue.
Channel 4 countdown mathematician Rachel Riley said Sir David has supported his mother Celia’s work with the Essex Horse and Pony Protection Society.
The charity said it was shocked and saddened by the loss of the “local congressman and animal advocate”.
Last month, Sir David shared how he was preparing Vivienne, his three-year-old French Bulldog, for the annual Westminster Dog of the Year show.
Marking yesterday’s’ dark and shocking day ‘Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said:’ Informed by his faith, David had a deep sense of duty, which I witnessed firsthand in Parliament.
“His Catholicism was at the heart of his political life and he was highly respected in Parliament, the Church and the Christian community. “
Boris Johnson added: “The reason people are so shocked and sad is above all because he was one of the nicest, kindest, sweetest people in politics.
“He also had an exceptional record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable.”