MP remarked in his memoir that ‘increasing attacks’ had ‘spoilt the great British tradition’ of people meeting their elected politiciansSir David Amess wrote about impact of Jo Cox murder on meeting constituents in his latest book
Sir David Amess last year wrote about how the important British tradition of MPs meeting constituents had been changed forever by the murder of Jo Cox at her constituency surgery.
Sir David, the MP for Southend West who was killed at one of his own constituency surgeries on Friday afternoon, made the remarks in his memoir at the end of last year.
Labour MP Jo Cox was killed on June 16, 2016 after she was shot and stabbed by the far-Right extremist Thomas Mair in the village of Birstall in her constituency. She had been the MP for Batley and Spen for just over a year.
In Ayes and Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, published in November 2020, Sir David said the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox outside her own constituency surgery had been totally unexpected.
Jo Cox murder ‘changed the way’ MPs interact with public
“She was a young woman with a family going out about her duties as we all do, completely unaware of the threat that she faced,” he wrote.
“There can be no doubt that as a result of these heightened security concerns, most Members have modified or changed the way they interact with the general public.
“The British tradition has always been that Members of Parliament regularly make themselves available for constituents to meet them face-to-face at their surgeries. Now advice has been given to be more careful when accepting appointments.”
Sir David noted that all MPs had received guidance about security while in their own homes, were advised never to meet constituents alone, and to be “extra careful” when opening their post or in their offices in Westminster.
On a personal note he had occasionally experienced “nuisance” from constituents who had shown up at his own home, he added.
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This had led him to regularly check his locks, while other MPs in similar situations had installed CCTV cameras.
The changes to constituency surgeries, which allow members of the public to discuss local issues and raise their concerns with local MPs, was the starkest change after Ms Cox’s death, Sir David wrote.
“In short, these increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of people only meeting their elected politicians,” he concluded.
Sir David used the same passage to commend the work of the Jo Cox Foundation, which was established to combat loneliness in the wake of her death.
Sir David also recalled in Ayes and Ears that MPs were asked to be “vigilant of the general public visiting constituency surgeries” after the murder of Andrew Pennington in 2000.
He wrote: “This advice was triggered as a result of someone with a machete bursting into the surgery of Nigel Jones and killing one of his assistants. A traumatic event.
“We all make ourselves readily available to our constituents and are often dealing with members of the public who have mental health problems, it could happen to any of us.”
As an MP for Basildon, Sir David added that police informed him of a death threat that was made against him, “apparently by the IRA”, resulting in an emergency button being installed next to his bed.
“I was instructed to press it in the event of an attack. Mercifully, nothing happened,” he added.