James Duddridge, who is currently Southend’s only MP in the wake of the killing of his friend and colleague, has told the House of Commons that he was above and beyond everything else a family man and “a very funny man.”
“He would often break through all the rules, cutting through pomp and ceremony and connecting with people, said the MP for the Rochford and Southend East Constituency.
- Google, YouTube ban ads on climate misinformationOctober 9, 2021
- California to enforce ‘gender neutral’ toy aisles in large storesOctober 12, 2021
Introducing Duddridge, Amess would always make up a story. At his annual Christmas dinner for people over the age of one hundred, Duddrige was a strictly come dancing winner.
Before there was ever a raffle, he would describe Duddridge as a ‘lottery millionaire.’
“My favourite ice-breaker was: ‘meet James. He’s my neighbour. He’s recently got out of prison,” he added.
Duddridge went on to relay the story of the boiled sweet – alluded to by Mark Francois – which stemmed from a visit to the Vatican by Amess, a devout Catholic. People were getting things blessed, and with a sore throat, the MP for Southend West reached into his pocket and took out a boiled sweet.
“David got his timing wrong. The pope took the sweet, thinking it was a revered object to be blessed,” said Duddridge, mimicking the pope making the sign of the cross.
Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP at Westminster, said Sir David Amess was a “good and a decent man” who would always greet someone with a welcoming smile.
“For members and staff across this house it will take time to come to terms with the terrible shock of the senseless death of another colleague,” he said, adding that the family of Jo Cox were being forced to relive the nigthmare of their experience again.
“Members of this house are being murdered for simply doing their job. That is the terrible reality we are faced with.”
David Amess was probably the best father of the House of Commons that it will never have, Tory MP Mark Francois has said in remarks paying attention to his fallen friend.
In the last few years, he said, Amess had become increasingly concerned about the atmosphere in which MPs, and particularly female MPs, had to endure.
Amess wanted something to be done about it, said Francois, who added: “All of us, no matter where we came from, came here to try to help people.”
MPs were now being systematically vilified day after day, he said, telling MPs: “Enough is enough.”
He called for the forthcoming online safety bill to be toughened up with “David’s Law”, which would ensure that those in public life could no longer be vilified by those who hide behind a cloak of anonymity
Francois said he had to confess that he would like to drag Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and other social media chiefs to the House of Commons to account for a failure to act against online abuse.
“If the social media chief executives don’t want to drain the swamp of social media then let’s compel them to do so.”
“I am absolutely determined that he will not have died in vain.”
Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie complied with coronavirus rules when a family friend stayed with them over Christmas, Downing Street has said.
Nimco Ali reportedly spent Christmas at No 10, despite London being placed under tier 4 lockdown restrictions in December 2020, preventing most households mixing.
Ali is understood to have stayed with the Johnsons, who at the time were engaged to be married, under the “bubble” arrangements, which allowed friends or family to provide informal childcare – the couple’s son Wilfred was eight months old at the time.
Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister and Mrs Johnson have followed the coronavirus rules at all times.”
The House of Commons is united in its grief, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has said, adding that MPs were thinking again about their dear friend, Jo Cox.
“Civility mattes, and it matters in politics,” he added, telling MPs that they all had a duty to learn.
“We must not lose sight that David’s killing was an act of terror in our country,” he went on, citing the killings of Jo Cox and also PC Keith Palmer, the police officer who was murdered during a terrorist attack on parliament.
“A cowardly attack on a public servant doing his job is an attack on our country and our way of life.”
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that the Queen has agreed Southend will be granted city status following the killing of MP Sir David Amess.
Johnson said all MPs mourn with Sir David’s family, adding in the Commons: “Sir David was taken from us in a contemptible act of violence striking at the core of what it is to be a member of this house, and violating both the sanctity of the church in which he was killed and the constituency surgery that is so essential to our representative democracy.”
“But we will not allow the manner of Sir David’s death in any way to detract from his accomplishments as a politician or as a human being.”
“Sir David was a patriot who believed passionately in this country, in its people and in its future. He was also one of the nicest, kindest and most gentle individuals ever to grace these benches.”
MPs cheered in the Commons as the prime minister announced Southend “will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves”.
Johnson said: “As it is only a short time since Sir David last put that very case to me in this chamber, I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves.”
“That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this house, but not one day in ministerial office, tells everything about where his priorities lay.”
The Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, addressing the house, said: “In nearly four decades in this house Sir David was second to none in his determined commitment to his constituent, firstly as member for Basildon between 1983 and 97, and since then as the member for Southend West. He was tireless in making sure the voice of Southend West was heard in this chamber. It’s difficult to believe we will not hear him make the case for Southend achieving city status.”
“On a personal level David was a lovely man. He was well liked by staff and members alike and during his almost four decades here he built a reputation for kindness and generosity.”
Conor McGinn, the shadow security minister, said that online harms had been brought into focus in recent months, not just fraud but also terrorism.
He asked if the government was satisfied that they could address concerns in an online safety bill or if specific and more targeted action was required. If so, he pledged Labour’s support.
Damian Hinds, McGinn’s opposite number on the government frontbench, said “There are important steps in the online safety bill to do with illegal content and I think that improve our arsenal, our toolkit.”
But there were other issues that needed to be worked on, in particular the encryption on some platforms and their own “deliberate blinding to themselves”.
Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, paid tribute to Sir David Amess as someone who was kind but who was also funny “and didn’t take himself too seriously.”
She also paid tribute to James Brokenshire as a “good and kind” man who was also approachable as the immigration minister, she added: “ From this side of the house, who know how it feels to have someone fall, all our love through you Mr Speaker is with those family, friends and colleagues of those who have died.”
She went on – as part of questions to the home secretary – to ask if the government had decided to implement all of the recommendations of a HM Inspectorate report last month within the time frame laid out in order to improve the response against violence towards women and girls in the aftermath of the killing of Sarah Everard.
Rachel Maclean, the Home Office minister responding for the government, said the home secretary was considering the report in detail and had put in place some actions.
A minute’s silence in honour of Sir David Amess was also observed outside the church where he was stabbed to death.
A police officer blew a whistle to signal the start and finish of the minute outside Belfairs Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.
The House of Commons was packed for the earlier minute’s silence, but MPs appear to have left a space for where the MP for Southend West would might have been sitting.
Natasha Clark, Political and environment correspondent at the Sun, tweets:
We see far too much cruelty online, the home secretary, Priti Patel, has told MPs after the Labour MP Chris Bryant asked her what could be done to combat the “toxic” way of doing politics that had developed.
“In this place, I would use one word, and that is respect,” she added.
Bryant paid tribute earlier to David Amess by saying that, while he never persuaded him to support gay marriage, the Conservative MP always asked how his husband was.
Patel said of her late colleague: “His killing is a terrible and sad moment in our history, an attack on our democracy and an appalling tragedy. We are all thinking of David Jr and his family.”
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has told MPs that they have lost two members since they were last gathered.
They were James Brokenshire – the former government minister who died at the age of 53 from cancer – and Sir David Amess, who was killed on Friday.
“The circumstances of Sir David’s death are despicable and raise the most fundamental issues about how members of this house are able to perform their vital democratic responsibilities safely and securely,” said the Speaker.
“In light of the ongoing police investigation I will not say more about the events, but I give the house my undertaking I will do everything in my power to ensure that these issues are treated with urgency and with the sense of priority that they deserve.”
Tributes would be paid to Brokenshire on Wednesday, he added. The prime minister is to move a motion to adjourn after Home Office questions, which are taking place now, and MPs will pay tribute to Amess.
MPs are holding a minute’s silence in memory of Sir David Amess.
It’s been two years since a parliamentary committee found that the level of abuse faced by elected representatives and others in public life is “now so great it is undermining their engagement with constituents, how they express themselves on social media, and carry out their democratic duties”.
But as Paul Waugh, the chief political commentator at the iPaper, notes, gaps in security that were flagged up then still remain.
Giving evidence before that report by parliament’s human rights committee, Britain’s most powerful police officer warned that criminal abuse and harassment of MPs was running at unprecedented levels, reflecting “polarised opinions” in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
The warning from Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police chief, was accompanied by official statistics showing that the number of crimes committed against MPs had more than doubled to 342 in 2018 from 151 the year before.
In its conclusions, the committee’s report stated:
MPs who do report threats or abuse to the police note a big variation in the response. While some MPs find the police concerned and helpful, others report the police showing more sympathy with the assailant rather than the MP victim.
An example of this which was widely circulated on social media was when Anna Soubry MP was harassed as she tried to make her way into parliament while police officers stood by without intervening.
The family of Sir David Amess have comforted each other as they read messages on floral tributes left outside the church where the MP was stabbed to death.
His widow, Julia, wiped tears from her eyes on the visit to Belfairs Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on Monday morning.
The group of six, accompanied by the church’s minister Clifford Newman, spent more than 15 minutes looking through the messages that people had written.
They put their arms around one another and held hands at points. The group later bowed their heads and formed a semi-circle around the churchman as he gave a short private address.
The minister hugged Julia afterwards, speaking to other members of the group and shaking their hands as they departed.
Large piles of tributes – including flowers, heart-shaped balloons and framed pictures – have been left on either side of the front door of the church where Amess was killed on Friday.
Lord Dodds, veteran DUP politician, said the murder of David Amess had caused shockwaves among politicians across the UK and was an attack on democracy.
“It appears completely random,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme.
“Why was it Jo Cox, why was it David Amess? Many hundreds of MPs hold constituency surgeries, particularly on Fridays and at weekends.
“This is an attack on democracy, not just an individual – people trying to silence and shut down political opinion and debate, democracy in the United Kingdom.”
Northern Ireland’s chief constable, Simon Byrne, has contacted elected representatives in the region to discuss their security following the murder of Amess.