U.K. Conservative Lawmaker Amess Stabbed to Death in Essex
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Conservative lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death at a constituency meeting in Essex, with police arresting a man on suspicion of murder.
Amess, 69, had been a Tory MP since 1983, representing the seat of Southend West in Essex. Prime Minister Boris Johnson led tributes that poured in from politicians of all political stripes, painting a picture of a man widely liked and respected for his decency and devotion to his constituents.
“All our hearts are full of shock and sadness today,” Johnson told broadcasters, praising Amess’s almost 40 years of service. “He was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics and he also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable.”
The attack will raise questions about the safety of Members of Parliament, who hold regular face-to-face meetings with residents in their districts, usually with little security. It comes just over five years after Labour Party MP Jo Cox was murdered in Yorkshire, when on her way to a constituency surgery.
“This is an incident that will send shock waves across the parliamentary community and the whole country,” Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle said in a statement. “In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken.”
Police confirmed Amess’s death after the attack at a church in Leigh-on-Sea, where the politician had been holding his meeting. They said a 25 year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder, and remains in custody. A knife was recovered from the scene and police aren’t looking for other suspects.
“The investigation is in its very early stages and is being led by officers from the specialist anti-terrorism command,” Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said in a televised statement. “It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this is a terrorist incident, but as always they will keep an open mind.”
Amess’s death prompted an outpouring of tributes from across the political spectrum. Former prime minister David Cameron described Amess as “the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet”, while Labour leader Keir Starmer called his death “horrific and deeply shocking”.
Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, called the news “utterly devastating,” while Democratic Unionist Party Leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the attack was “shocking and horrendous.”
“All of us are united in sadness today and in calling for an end to this abuse, intimidation and violence,” Blackford said in a statement. “It is a threat to our democracy - and it has to stop.”
Former Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Theresa May all also expressed their sadness at the death.
Labour MP Jo Cox was the last MP to be killed in office, just days before the Brexit referendum in 2016. In 2010, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, nearly died after being stabbed.
“This brings everything back,” Cox’s husband, Brendan Cox, wrote on Twitter. “The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”
Married with a son and four daughters, Amess campaigned vocally for Britain to leave the European Union and championed various causes in Parliament, including fighting animal cruelty and arguing pro-life positions on abortion. After being knighted in 2015, allowing him to use the title “Sir,” he posed for photos dressed as a medieval knight.
Amess’s death comes just a week after another Conservative lawmaker, James Brokenshire, died of cancer.
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