On 15 October, David Amess did what he had done almost every Friday afternoon since being elected an MP in 1983: holding a constituency surgery to hear the concerns of locals in Southend West. Yet he never finished that day’s casework, as he was stabbed and killed by a 25-year-old man from north London called Ali Harbi Ali, who has been charged with his murder and the preparation of terrorist acts.
Amess was a true constituency MP, dedicating himself to the people of Essex and steadfastly sticking to the back benches throughout nearly two decades of service – a Conservative liked and respected by colleagues across the House.
The suspect will face trial next March, but already the tragedy has led to a review of MPs’ safety. Police forces across the country have also been working with individual MPs to discuss beefing up security while they go about their constituency work – in addition to measures like the installation of CCTV cameras and panic buttons in MPs’ houses brought in after the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.
There was also renewed focus on the language of politics, which had coarsened since Brexit divided voters and politicians alike, and the abuse MPs receive online.
As Amess’s family said in their tribute: “Strong and courageous is an appropriate way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace. So we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness.
“Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand. As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody.”
Find the other entries in the New Statesman A-Z of 2021 here.