Dr Julian Lewis: David Amess was a man of boundless enthusiasm, who combined goodness of nature with kindness of heart and generosity of spirit.
That he was the ultimate optimist was clear from our first encounter. It was in the London Borough of Newham in 1977. I was trying to help local Labour Party members resist revolutionary Trotskyites from the Militant Tendency in Newham North-East. David was flying the Conservative flag in the adjacent seat of Newham North-West, undaunted by the staggering size of the Labour majority. Twenty years later, I joined him on the Conservative benches in this House – just in time to go into Opposition for the next thirteen years.
In his gentle and reflective memoir, Ayes and Ears, David describes taking his seat for the first time as
“An overwhelming experience of joy”.
That joy never left him. Neither did his optimism, nor his respect for the proper role of Parliament whose diminution he resisted. His book was just a taster:
“It’s not really a memoir, as I’m only halfway through my political career!”
That was his reason, he claimed, for not writing anything objectionable about his fellow Parliamentarians. Yet, we know that’s nonsense: David never had a bad word to say about anybody. On the contrary, he was full of praise for other hon. Members and he never regarded politics as a zero-sum game in which the success of someone else is a setback for oneself.
David was as straight as a die and appreciated the same quality in others. Referring to Margaret Thatcher, he admired how
“She told what she believed in, set out her policies and fought for them”.
As many rt. hon. and hon. Members have testified, that is what he did, too. Typically, the proceeds from his book are being donated to charities supporting people with endometriosis, prostate cancer or learning difficulties. His utter joy in conducting a musical performance by the last of these three groups is heart-warming to view online.
Also online is the recording of his virtual book launch, early last December, featuring the inimitable Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail as his interviewer. Typically, he followed this up with a whole series of virtual book tours in every region of the United Kingdom. I felt genuinely privileged to be chosen, with our hon. Friend for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), as one of his interlocutors for the Southern counties.
David’s online launch event concludes with a poignant video of him strolling past all the places he loved which had featured so strongly in his life and career. He was a man on a journey who always knew where he was heading. We can all draw inspiration from his example and his humanity. Matthew Syed summed it up admirably in The Times on 17 October:
“Sir David Amess,”
“was not just an MP but a totem of Western civilisation”.
[NOTE: Sir David was assassinated in an act of terrorism in his Southend West constituency on 15 October 2021. This speech could not be delivered in the Tributes session in the House of Commons, three days later, as – for the time available – there were too many MPs applying to participate. However, it is to be included in a special edition of Hansard prepared for presentation to Sir David's family.]