British MPs’ security to be reviewed following fatal stabbing of Conservative David Amess

Conservative Party MP for Southend West attacked by man while meeting constituents

British prime minister Boris Johnson, accompanied by leader of the opposition Keir Starmer, has visited a church in Leigh-on-Sea, where Conservative MP David Amess (69) was stabbed to death a day earlier. Video: Reuters

 

MPs’ security will be reviewed following the stabbing to death of Conservative David Amess during a constituency surgery at a church in Essex.

The 69-year-old father of five, who had been an MP since 1983, was stabbed a number of times while meeting constituents at a widely advertised, regular clinic.

Paramedics were reported to have worked for an hour in an effort to save Sir David’s life as he lay on the floor of the church. Essex police said they arrested a 25-year-old man on suspicion of murder and recovered a knife at the scene in Leigh-on-Sea.

“We have recovered a knife from the scene and are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident. We are continuing to appeal for anyone who saw anything or has CCTV, dash cam or doorbell footage to come forward,” they said.

Amid reports that counter-terrorism officers were assisting the police investigation, House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said the murder would send shockwaves across parliament.

“In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken,” he said.

Sir David’s fatal stabbing follows the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016 outside her constituency office in Batley and Spen and a rise in violent threats against MPs in recent years.

British Conservative MP David Amess. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images
British Conservative MP David Amess. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images

Home secretary Priti Patel said that questions were “rightly being asked” about MPs’ safety and London mayor Sadiq Khan said public representatives must be able to meet voters as part of their job.

“We can’t cower to these sorts of attacks, but we’ve got to realise MPs are losing their lives. I’m afraid we have to re-examine the security given to our politicians but we can’t lose what’s precious to our democracy for them to meet the people they represent,” he said.

Sir David, who was knighted in 2015 on the right of the Conservative party, was an ardent Brexiteer who opposed abortion and voted against same-sex marriage. But he campaigned against fuel poverty and was a champion of animal rights who opposed fox-hunting.

He was a popular figure at Westminster and MPs from all parties paid tribute to him following the news of his murder.

“The reason why people are so saddened is that he was one of kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics. He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable,” prime minister Boris Johnson said.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was a dark and shocking day, calling for people to come together to ensure that violence and intimidation would not prevail.

“The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before,” he said.

‘Shocked and saddened’

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he was “shocked and saddened” at the news. “Nobody anywhere, including in politics or public service, should have to fear for their safety while doing their work,” he said.

In a joint statement on Friday afternoon the North’s First and Deputy First Ministers expressed their “shock and sympathy” at the death of Mr Amess.

Paul Givan said it was a “brutal attack on a man with a distinguished history of public service, and the repercussions will resonate with us all.”

Michelle O’Neill said she had been “deeply shocked” to learn of Mr Amess’s death “in the most tragic of circumstances”.

“No public representative should face attack when carrying out their duties on behalf of their constituents,” she said.

The Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said the tributes being paid to Mr Amess “from across all political parties demonstrate a huge level of respect for a thoroughly decent, hard-working constituency MP.

“It`s an absolute tragedy that he lost his life doing the job he loved while serving his constituents,” Mr Beattie said.

The Alliance MP Stephen Farry described Mr Amess as a “true gentleman” and a “dedicated constituency MP” who was “killed simply doing his duty.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson described the killing of Sir David as “shocking and horrendous” and sent his condolences to his family and friends. Mr Donaldson said Sir David had been a “long-standing friend to me personally but also to the Union”.

“More than many in Westminster, he took a keen interest in Northern Ireland and its people,” he said, adding that he “always wanted to see the country moving forward.”

“Such a brutal attack must be condemned and is a reminder of the dangers which still face people in public office,” Mr Donaldson said.

Armed police officers outside the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex where David Amess was attacked and killed. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Armed police officers outside the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex where David Amess was attacked and killed. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, said the murder was “shocking beyond words”.

“He left home this morning to meet constituents and do his best for his local community,” he said.

“To suffer a brutal attack like this in the line of public service is absolutely horrendous. Politicians make themselves accessible to the public to provide support and improve their lives. No one believes that they’ll be attacked in that effort. Political leaders will be united across party lines today following this terrible news.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps described Sir David as “a true parliamentarian”. He tweeted: “Awful, tragic news about David.

“A dedicated, thoughtful man and a true Parliamentarian, who lost his life while serving the constituents who he worked relentlessly for throughout his career.

“My thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role.

“My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Elected representatives from across the political spectrum will be united in sadness and shock today.

“In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.” – Additional reporting PA