This short blog is in honour of a true gentleman, Sir David Amess MP, who was tragically murdered on Friday in a frenzied knife attack.
As Southenders, Mike and I knew Sir David quite well. He was not technically ‘our’ MP as our home and offices are in the east of the borough and David was MP for Southend West. But nonetheless we met him at several events over years, some very salubrious, others far less so.
David was always extremely supportive of our work. The picture below shows him presenting a Southend Business & Community Charter Award (now the national Social Value Certification) to representatives from RDP Newman at one of our Double Whammy events in Leigh-on-Sea.
Rather than any of the razzmatazz functions we attended, the event that is probably most etched in my memory was at one of his constituency surgeries. We were there with a family member who needed help which, of course, was forthcoming.
While in the waiting room, an elderly man was called through and hobbled to David’s office very slowly, leaning very heavily on his walking stick.
By the time we went in to see David, he was absolutely fuming. The man had received a letter saying he would no longer receive Disability Living Allowance (now replaced by Personal Independent Payment for disabled people) as part of a government campaign to reduce the number of people receiving the benefit. A call back from the person who had signed the letter came through while we were still in his office. David made it abundantly clear that he knew the constituent, that he was indeed disabled, and questioned the basis on which the decision to revoke the allowance had been made. The response was that they would re-instate the allowance immediately. That made David even angrier and to paraphrase, he said something akin to the following:
How dare you mess with people’s lives so glibly. You take away someone’s benefit that they are clearly entitled to and are then prepared to restore it because of a few angry words from me. What gives you the right to play God with people’s lives? I will not tolerate my constituents being treated like this and will do everything in my power to ensure no other constituents are subjected to this cruel and unjust approach.
David’s attitude to his constituents was almost that they were all part of his extended family. He would do his utmost to support any constituent who asked for help, whatever colour of creed. His kindness and genuine compassion absolutely shone through everything he did.
He had strong personal views and could be quite outspoken, and yet he was clearly respected by politicians across all parties. Boris Johnson said he was one of the “kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics,” a sentiment that has been resoundingly echoed across not only the political arena, but also from people of all walks of life who live in Southend-on-Sea, a borough that he loved so dearly.
Although Sir David was knighted in 2015 for political and public service, he never attained ministerial office in parliament. But I suspect that was not his aspiration. He was a committed constituent MP and dedicated to serving the people of Basildon and then Southend who had elected him as their MP for nearly 40 years.
David was a true gentleman. He had the courage of his convictions and yet remained unfailingly kind, generous, compassionate, and great fun. A man who was loved and respected by so many.
Perhaps the greatest way to honour this wonderful man who has been cruelly taken from us is to strive to be of service. To ensure our businesses make a positive contribution to society. To stay true to our values. But to always, always, be kind.