Who was Sir David Amess? A Brexiteer Tory MP who championed animal welfare and pro-life issues

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The father of five had been a Conservative MP for nearly 40 years, since his election in 1983

Who was Sir David Amess? A Brexiteer Tory MP who championed animal welfare and pro-life issues
David Amess with dogs Lilly and Bo at the Westminster Dog of the Year in Victoria Tower Park in 2013
David Amess with dogs Lilly and Bo at the Westminster Dog of the Year contest in 2013 CREDIT: Heathcliff O’Malley

Days ago, Sir David Amess was signing copies of his memoir of life as a backbench MP at the Conservative party conference and appealing for votes at the forthcoming Westminster Dog of the Year Show.

A father of five, he had been a Conservative MP for nearly 40 years, since his election in 1983. Only Sir Peter Bottomley, Barry Sheerman and Harriet Harman had served in the House of Commons for longer. 

But his career and life ended tragically on Friday when Sir David, the MP for Southend West in Essex, was stabbed to death at his constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

Sir David was above all a constituency politician, throwing open his weekly surgeries for his constituents to book an appointment.

He never rose up the ministerial greasy pole to pursue a career in Government, preferring to get things done on the floor of the House of Commons.

Two of his most significant achievements were the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act (1988), and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act (2000), both of which are on the statute book in his name.

Sir David himself described his main areas of expertise as “animal welfare and pro-life issues” on his website.

He supported a ban on fox hunting as well as plans for a prohibition on the import of hunting trophies. He was also a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation.

Sir David was a staunch supporter of the Brexit campaign
Sir David was a staunch supporter of the Brexit campaign
Sir David Amess speaks as the British delegation appear on stage during the Conference In Support Of Freedom and Democracy In Iran on June 30, 2018
Sir David Amess speaks as the British delegation appear on stage during the Conference In Support Of Freedom and Democracy In Iran on June 30, 2018 CREDIT: Getty

His Twitter feed was full of meetings with local people and his campaigning on animal welfare issues. 

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One of the first to pay tribute to him was Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, who said: “He was hugely kind and good. An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust.” 

His campaigning efforts in the Commons in recent years are most closely associated with the Essex coastal town of Southend and Sir David’s interventions were never without humour.

Ministerial questions in the Commons were punctuated by his long-running campaign to make Southend a city.

In December 2019, he secured a debate on the floor of the House of Commons specifically on the campaign and he told MPs: “I am not messing around. We have got it from the Prime Minister that Southend is going to become a city – and it will become a city.”

Sir David also campaigned for a statue to the Queen in his constituency as well as a memorial to Dame Vera Lynn on the White Cliffs of Dover.

A lingering frustration was that people continued to mock him for being duped in 1997 by Channel 4’s Brass Eye about a fake drug called “Cake”.

Sir David published a memoir late last year, Ayes and Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, offering tips to MPs on how to get the best out of serving in the Commons.

In his memoir, Sir David described the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox outside her own constituency surgery as “totally unexpected”.

He wrote that MPs had received guidance about security in their own home, were advised never to see people alone, and that he had been advised to be “extra careful” when opening his post or in his office.

“In short, these increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of people only meeting their elected politicians,” he wrote.

Sir David holding a meeting at another Methodist church earlier this year
Sir David holding a meeting at another Methodist church earlier this year

Sir Peter Bottomley, the Father of the House of Commons, said on Friday: “He was dedicated to his constituency, contributed heavily in Parliament. He was on the Speaker’s Panel. He is the kind of person who gave Parliament a good name.”

Born in Plaistow in London in 1952, Sir David studied economics and government at the College of Technology in Bournemouth and worked as a teacher and recruitment consultant before he entered politics.

A devout Christian, Sir David and his wife Julia Arnold had one son and four daughters, the eldest of whom is the actress Kate Amess.

David Amess at a family wedding
David Amess at a family wedding
Sir David and his wife Julia with their daughter Sarah
Sir David and his wife Julia with their daughter Sarah CREDIT: Shutterstock

He was first elected to Parliament when he became MP for Basildon in the Conservatives’ landslide 1983 general election victory. 

A boundary review prior to the 1997 election meant that he became the MP for Southend West.

He has been a member of the Commons’ Panel of Chairs since 2001, which gives him responsibility for chairing Public Bill Committees and debates in Westminster Hall.

In 2018, conversations with a constituent led him to launch the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Endometriosis, which seeks to raise awareness of those suffering from the condition.

Sir David was a staunch supporter of the Brexit campaign and had described a vote to stay in the European Union as “a huge mistake” after “the loss of Parliamentary sovereignty”.

On December 30 last year, he posted a photo of a cardboard cut-out of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. He wrote: “Whilst Margaret didn’t live long enough to see this day, I am sure that she is rejoicing in heaven. At last we ‘got Brexit done’!”

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