Political leaders in Hertfordshire pay tribute to MP Sir David Amess

At a meeting of the full council, county councillors reflected on Sir David’s dedication to public service

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 9:13 am
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 9:14 am

Political leaders at Hertfordshire County Council have paid tribute to Southend West MP Sir David Amess.

Sir David died after being stabbed on Friday, October 15, in a church hall in Leigh-on-sea, where he was holding a constituency surgery for residents.

At a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, October 19, county councillors reflected on Sir David’s dedication to public service – and the nature of his death – before pausing the meeting for a minute’s silence.

The image has been used for illustrative purposes (C) Getty Images

Leader of the county council Cllr Richard Roberts said Sir David had died ‘serving the interests of his constituents’ and that he had been ‘utterly defenceless, utterly without malice, a servant to his people and his city’.

Although he said he did not know him personally, he acknowledged that a number of Hertfordshire councillors campaigned for him, knew him, celebrated with him and called him a friend.

He referenced the death of MP Jo Cox five years ago and the attack on Stephen Timms before that.

And he said that these ‘most extreme acts of barbarity are an attack on all of us, on all our freedoms and how we conduct our public lives’.

“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and the people of Southend as they grief for the father of their new city,” he said.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst – who did not know Sir David personally – acknowledged that he disagreed with Sir David on a number of issues.

“I may disagree very forcibly with Sir David’s views – whether it be about Brexit, LGBT rights, whether about abortion.

“But he was entitled to those views and entitled to have his own political views – he certainly was not entitled to be attacked by someone in those circumstances.”

He said that it was clear that Sir David wanted to serve his constituents. And he urged that councillors should not cow or back away, in the wake of the attack.

“I hope though the circumstances are indeed dreadful […] we should not cow or back away from the circumstances that we need to serve all our constituents to the best of our abilities, as indeed he was doing,” he said

Although he accepted there may need to be a police presence for MPs, he said he hoped that would not be the case for councillors or county councillors.

He suggested that over the past couple of years society had become ‘a little bit more intolerant of politicians’, for which he pointed the finger at social media and ‘some of the print media’ as well.

Meanwhile leader of the Labour group Cllr Judi Billing said that sudden death was almost unbearable for families and loved ones.

And she said she could not contemplate what violent sudden death must be like for those facing the loss.

In light of what she had learned about Sir David, she wondered just how many MPs and councillors are elected only wanting to serve their local communities rather than doing some bigger thing.

“I am really interested to know how many of our MPs there are in Parliament who are truly truly backbench MPs, in the way that we have learned to think about Sir David over the last few days,” she said.

“I suspect it may not be many – and that they are in their own way a particularly special breed of men and women who can focus so clearly on the local.

Green councillor Ben Crystal – who was born in Leigh- on-Sea – said that for a short time Sir David was his own MP.

And he said that he had heard first-hand from friends and family how shocked and upset the community is and what he meant to the community.

Before calling for a minute’s silence chairman Cllr Annie Brewster said Sir David was was “a supreme and ultimate public servant”.

The minute’s silence marked by the council also marked the passing of former county councillors Agnes Hill, John Winder and Maureen Cook.

The meeting of the county council on Tuesday, October 19, was chaired by vice-chairman of the council Cllr Annie Brewster.