A Conservative MP named Sir David Amess was stabbed to death today while holding a meeting with his constituents in a small town east of London called Leigh-on-Sea. This BBC graphic gives a clear indication of where the attack happened.
Some of the reports from UK papers note this was a regular MP “constituency surgery.” There’s a description of that term here but basically a “surgery” is just a regular, often weekly, chance for constituents to meet with their representative and talk to him or her about whatever they are concerned about. Those meetings often take place at the MP’s office which becomes known as their surgery but in this case the meeting was held at a Methodist Church. The attacker apparently entered with other constituents and pulled out a knife. Police were called but medics were unable to save Amess. A 25-year-old suspect was arrested immediately:
A 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after officers arrived at the scene and a knife was recovered, Essex Police said.
He is a British national who, from initial inquiries, appears to be of Somali heritage, government sources have told the BBC…
Dominic Casciani, BBC Home Affairs correspondent, said: “Scotland Yard detectives and the security service MI5 are assisting Essex Police – but there’s no confirmation that this was an act of terrorism.
“What that means is that they are keeping an open mind – at the earliest stages of an investigation, good police work requires officers to follow the evidence, rather than inadvertently narrowing down the avenues open to them to establish why an attack happened.
No one is saying this is terrorism yet but counterterrorism officers are leading the investigation. If this was terrorism, Sir David Amess seems like a strange target. He was considered an amiable backbencher, a man who appears to have been well-liked by everyone. PM Boris Johnson had praise for him:
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called MP David Amess “one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics” following Amess’ death after being stabbed during a constituency meeting.
“All our hearts are full of shock and sadness,” Johnson said.
“He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals,” Johnson told reporters.
The leader of the Labour Party posted a statement that was just as complimentary:
Sir David Amess. pic.twitter.com/N9bPWGWw0D
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 15, 2021
This BBC story offers a bit of his political history. He came in nearly 40 years ago as a supporter of Margaret Thatcher.
Sir David burst on to the political scene as the new MP for Basildon in 1983, the embodiment of what was known then as Essex Man, the archetypal aspirational voter who helped deliver a landslide victory for Margaret Thatcher that year.
With an East End accent and relatively humble origins, he gained a high profile on TV and radio, and triumphed against the odds in the 1992 general election when he unexpectedly held on to his seat…
Sir David – who was married with five children – was also a devout Catholic.
He was socially conservative: he supported capital punishment and opposed abortion. He was an early Eurosceptic. He was also a strong supporter of animal rights, including a fox hunting ban, and he campaigned against fuel poverty, advocated tackling obesity and raised awareness of endometriosis, a painful condition of the womb that some women suffer.
From the Duke and Duchess:
We are shocked and saddened by the murder of Sir David Amess, who dedicated 40 years of his life to serving his community.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues. W & C
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) October 15, 2021
Secretary of State Blinken posted this on Twitter:
The United States sends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Sir David Amess of the United Kingdom, a dedicated public servant and lawmaker. An attack on elected officials is an attack on democracy.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) October 15, 2021
But what’s more remarkable than the official statements are the ones coming from his constituents and people who knew him praising the good he did for people.
For those who didn’t know Sir David Amess, this will give you a measure of the man. I’d played a small part in helping him get 200 children with learning disabilities to play the @RoyalAlbertHall. This is the video I filmed on the night of his thank you speech. pic.twitter.com/aF7SCiPd3k
— Penny Mordaunt (@PennyMordaunt) October 15, 2021
Sky News spoke to someone who worked for a local homeless charity about Amess:
Mr Thomas said he was an incredibly “compassionate” man.
“David’s support really did mean a lot to us and made a big difference. Homelessness is a big issue on Southend and he understood it.
“He was just compassionate, that’s one I would describe him as, as someone who cared about his community. He didn’t show off or publicise that he came to see us, he came to see us because he wanted to.
“He always had a big smile on his face. He loved Southend. He was constantly bringing up how great Southend is in Parliament. I’m still in shock to be honest.”
The possibility of attacks on MPs like himself while meeting with constituents was something he’d expressed concern about just last year:
In a book published in November 2020, the Conservative MP said such attacks “could happen to any of us”.
Just 11 months later, he was killed in a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
In Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, Sir David wrote about the murder of Jo Cox, who he said was attacked “in the most barbaric fashion imaginable”.
I’ll update this post if more information becomes available.