David Amess - Fatal stabbing of British lawmaker David Amess called terrorist incident by UK police
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David Amess

Fatal stabbing of British lawmaker David Amess called terrorist incident by UK police


Story by Nic Robertson, Rob Picheta and Jo Shelley

Story   Source

Published on October 16, 2021 1:28 PM
 
It marks the second murder of a sitting British lawmaker in five years, after Labour MP Jo Cox was killed in her constituency in 2016 by a man with extreme right-wing views, and has reignited discussions about the safety of the UK's elected officials. The country's political, religious and societal leaders, and its royal family, all condemned the attack and paid tribute to Amess.
 
Counter-terrorism police in the United Kingdom have formally declared the fatal stabbing of British lawmaker David Amess an act of terrorism.

"The early investigation has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism," according to a statement from the Metropolitan Police overnight.

Authorities said they believed the suspect acted alone and they are "not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident at this time." Inquiries into the circumstances continue, however, the statement added. Two addresses in the London area are being searched.

Amess, a member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ruling Conservative Party, died after being stabbed several times at a constituency meeting east of London.

The 69-year-old member of Parliament, who represented Southend West in Essex, was attacked at about midday Friday by a man who walked into a meeting with voters from his electoral district being held in a Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

"He was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene," Essex police said. "A 25-year-old man was quickly arrested after officers arrived at the scene on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered."

The man arrested on suspicion of murdering Amess is believed to be a British national with Somali heritage, official sources have told the UK national news agency, PA Media, formerly known as Press Association.

The UK's Counter Terrorism Command will lead the investigation into the murder, police said Friday. "It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this is a terrorist incident. But as always, they will keep an open mind," Ben-Julian Harrington, Chief Constable of Essex Police, told reporters...

David Amess

Sir David Anthony Andrew Amess was a British politician who served as Member of Parliament for Southend West from 1997 until his killing in 2021. He previously served as MP for Basildon from 1983 to 1997. He was a member of the Conservative Party. He was born and grew up in Essex. He studied economics and government at Bournemouth University and then had short careers as a teacher, underwriter and recruitment consultant. He was elected as a Conservative councillor for Redbridge in 1982 and then MP for Basildon in 1983. This was seen as a bellwether seat, exemplifying the enthusiasm of the 'Essex man' for the government of Margaret Thatcher. He held the seat in the election of 1992 but boundary changes then made it untenable and so he became MP for Southend West in 1997, until his death, 24 years later.

In government, his highest position was as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Portillo for ten years. He was more prominent as a backbencher, serving on a variety of Select Committees and sponsoring several pieces of legislation including the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act and Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act. The causes for which he campaigned included the honouring of Raoul Wallenberg, support for sufferers of endometriosis, and animal welfare. He supported the ban on fox hunting.

His political views were socially conservative and included support for the return of capital punishment and Brexit. He was a Catholic and opposed abortion. He married in 1983 and the couple had five children including the actress Katie Amess.

On 15 October 2021, Amess was stabbed multiple times while holding a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea. He died at the scene.

Early life and career

David Anthony Andrew Amess was born on 26 March 1952 in Plaistow, Essex, the son of James Amess, an electrician, and his wife Maud Martin, a dressmaker. Amess was raised Roman Catholic like his mother. Maud died on 12 October 2016 at the age of 104.

Amess attended St Anthony's Junior and Infant School, then St Bonaventure's Grammar School on Boleyn Road in Forest Gate. He said later in life that his political interests stemmed from his time at St Bonaventure's. As a child he had a speech impediment, and speech therapy to correct this resulted in the loss of his natural Cockney accent. Amess went on to Bournemouth College of Technology, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics and government. Amess taught at St John the Baptist Primary School in Bethnal Green for a year, and then spent a short time as an underwriter before becoming a recruitment consultant.

Political career

He contested the safe Labour Party seat of Newham North West at the 1979 general election, and the seat was retained by Labour's MP Arthur Lewis. In 1982, Amess was elected as a councillor to the London Borough of Redbridge.

The incumbent Conservative MP for Basildon, Harvey Proctor, moved to Billericay in the 1983 general election; Amess was selected to replace him and was elected Member of Parliament for Basildon on 9 June 1983. He exemplified the new demographic of Essex man who supported Margaret Thatcher enthusiastically. Campaign described him as 'representative of new Essex man, working class, father electrician, right wing, keen hanger, noisily rambunctious, no subtlet'y.

Amess continued to serve both as an MP and a local councillor until 1986, when he stood down from Redbridge Borough Council to concentrate on his Westminster seat. He held his Basildon seat narrowly at the 1987 general election, in part by developing a significant personal following. After the election, Amess was appointed a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Portillo, a position he held for ten years throughout Portillo's ministerial career. Amess held his seat again at the 1992 general election, which was the first sign that the Conservatives would unexpectedly win that election; the Basildon constituency was viewed as the make-or-break milestone.

Prior to the 1997 general election, there was a boundary review which divided the Basildon seat into two parts, which were added in to two neighbouring seats. At the time, Amess remarked that the Boundary Commission 'had raped the town of Basildon' by adding an extra seat there. Given his small majority, the new Basildon constituency was almost certainly going to be gained by Labour. Amess thus decided to seek re-election elsewhere. In June 1995, Amess was selected for Southend West after the retirement of former Cabinet minister Paul Channon. He was consequently returned to Westminster again in the 1997. Angela Evans Smith won the newly drawn Basildon seat for Labour in 1997 by over 13,000 votes.

Involvement in legislation

Amess sponsored many parliamentary bills. Two of his most significant achievements are the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act, and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act, both of which are on the statute book in his name. In 2014, he successfully piloted the Security Printing Materials Bill onto the Statute Book. This Bill ended a loophole which allowed companies who supplied specialist printing equipment to counterfeiters to evade prosecution.

In 2016, he successfully steered onto the statute book the Driving Instructors Bill. This Bill streamlines the process whereby instructors whose registration has lapsed can apply to return to the register. It also allows instructors who wish to leave the register for personal reasons to do so without being penalised. The Bill was supported by driving school owners and motoring organisations.

Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act

The Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act came about as a result of Amess' long-standing concern for animal welfare, supported by the National Farmers Union. Amess stated in the House of Commons that the Ten Minute Rule Bill was 'inspired by the Essex Horse and Pony Protection Societ'y. The bill stated:

'In section 1 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 there shall be added in subsection the following words after paragraph 'or shall tether any horse, ass or mule under such conditions or in such manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering;'

Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act

Amess' most publicised legislative success came in 2000 with the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act. According to a speech in the House of Commons made by Amess, the Act came to fruition after he was drawn out of the Private Members Ballot. He met with Martyn Williams, a campaigner from Friends of the Earth, who convinced him of the need for the Act following on from the death of a constituent in a cold house.

The Act required the Secretary of State to 'publish and implement a strategy for reducing fuel povert'y.

This Act was widely credited with a significant change in both attitude and policy towards fuel poverty within the UK. The scale of fuel poverty in England fell from 5.1 million households to 1.2 million households between 1996 and 2004, indicating the impact of the Act.

Health Select Committee

Amess served on the Health Select Committee from 1998 until 2007. Due to his role on the Health Select Committee, he became Chair of the Conservative Party Backbench Committee for Health in 1999. He campaigned on various health issues since. While a member of the committee, Amess played a prominent role holding an inquiry into the state of obesity in the UK, leading to the publication of a report in 2004. The report found that two-thirds of the population of England are overweight or obese and went on to discuss the causes of obesity, as well as making various recommendations to combat the problem. He maintained an interest in the issue, tabling a series of Parliamentary Questions in July 2013.

Panel of Chairs

Amess was also a member of the Panel of Chairs, which comprises the chairman and two deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means, as well as ten Members nominated at the start of each session by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Amess was appointed most recently on 26 May 2010, but had been on the panel since 2001. As a member of the panel, Amess was responsible for chairing Public Bill Committees; chairing Westminster Hall debates; and at times, for chairing Committees of the whole House.

Administration Committee

Amess became a member of the Administration Committee in 2015. This committee is responsible for overseeing the running of the Parliamentary Estate and services. He stepped down from the Committee following the 2019 General election.

Backbench Business Committee

Amess was elected onto the newly formed Backbench Business Committee in 2010; he stood down in 2015.

Raoul Wallenberg

Amess campaigned for many years to have a statue erected in honour of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary, an endeavour for which Wallenberg eventually lost his life. Amess began asking Parliamentary Questions in the late 1980s regarding Wallenberg, campaigning for him to be awarded honorary British Nationality. Amess had previously attempted to push through a Raoul Wallenberg Bill in the 1989–90 session and he held an Adjournment Debate in Wallenberg's honour in 1996. The resultant memorial was installed in London, at Great Cumberland Place, outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue and unveiled in 1997.

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Endometriosis

In March 2018 Amess launched an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Endometriosis with the aim of raising awareness of the condition, and to investigate how those who suffer from endometriosis can get the support that they need. The group was chaired by Amess, with Emma Hardy, Jackie Doyle-Price and Hannah Bardell as vice-chairs.

Industry and Parliament Trust

Amess became a Fellow of the Industry and Parliament Trust in 1994. Amess completed an IPT Post-Graduate Fellowship I in 2012 specialising in the Cultural and Creative Industries, at Brit School, ITN and the Royal Opera House. Amess became chairman of the board of Trustees in 2014 and stood down at the end of his term in 2017.

Comments about Harvey Weinstein scandal

In October 2017, following the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, a statement was issued in the name of Amess which described the allegations against Weinstein as 'dubious to say the least' and quoted Amess as having said that the 'sudden flurry of alleged inappropriate advances beggars belief'. Amess later retracted the statement and apologised 'for any upset', saying that the statement had been issued by his staff without his authorisation.

Media and publications

Publications

Amess wrote a pamphlet about his 1992 re-election to the Basildon constituency, 1992: Against All Odds!. It was launched in the House of Commons at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the election and was attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Conservative Party activists.

Amess compiled a pamphlet entitled Party of Opportunity with the Renewal Group, which contained thirteen short biographical accounts of Conservative members of parliament who identify as working class or who come from a working-class background. The pamphlet, which was launched in the House of Commons in April 2014, included contributions from four Government Ministers, including Sajid Javid, Mark Francois, Patrick McLoughlin, and Mike Penning. The second edition of Party of Opportunity was launched in January 2015, sponsored by The Association of Conservative Clubs and included contributions from 29 Conservative MPs.

Ayes & Ears: A Survivor's Guide to Westminster was published by Luath Press in December 2020. The book includes sketches of colleagues, memorable speeches, scandals, and descriptions of major events in Parliament from an insider's viewpoint. In February 2021, it was announced that the book had been shortlisted for the Parliamentary Book Awards in the Memoir/Biography category.

Brass Eye

Amess appeared in the 'Drugs' episode of the spoof current affairs television programme Brass Eye, and was fooled into filming an elaborate warning against the dangers of a fictional Eastern European drug called 'cake'. Amess later asked a question about 'Cake' in the UK Parliament, alongside real substances khat and GHB. In response, the Home Office minister incorrectly replied that 'cake' was a name 'we understand refers to 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-benzylamphetamine', a real drug. In 2001, when Brass Eye was repeated and released on DVD, a disclaimer was added to the 'Drugs' episode at Amess' request reiterating his disapproval of recreational drug use.

Political views

Amess normally adhered to Conservative party policy when voting in the Commons, but he was very strongly in favour of the ban on fox-hunting. He voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but was afterwards critical of the Labour government's failure to find the weapons of mass destruction with which they justified the action at the time. On foreign policy, he was also a leading member of Conservative Friends of Israel. He was one of the few Conservative MPs to support the campaign to impeach Tony Blair.

Amess was one of 30 Conservatives who voted against military action in Syria in August 2013. He later commented that he felt the way he and his colleagues voted made a difference and if he had previously voted against the war in Iraq things might have been different in that situation as well.

He was a critic of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and advocated for the National Council of Resistance of Iran. He publicly endorsed Maryam Rajavi's 10-point manifesto.

Amess opposed abortion. In June 2005, Amess supported the Prohibition of Abortion Bill introduced by Laurence Robertson that sought to almost entirely ban abortion.

Amess campaigned for improvements in animal welfare and husbandry. He consistently voted to ban foxhunting and hare coursing. He was a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. Amess supported many campaigns, including banning cages for game birds, puppy farming and smuggling and ending the transport of live animals for export.

Amess was a staunch Eurosceptic, coming out in support of Brexit ahead of the EU referendum, in which he said it was 'dangerous' and a 'huge mistake' to vote 'remain'. He described a 'loss of Parliamentary sovereignt'y as the main negative of UK-EU relations. Amess criticised then US President Barack Obama's intervention in the EU referendum campaign when he met with David Cameron, stating that he had 'absolutely no right whatsover getting involved'.

After entering the House of Commons, Amess generally opposed bills furthering LGBT rights, including equal age of consent and same-sex marriage.

Awards

Amess was created a Knight Bachelor in the 2015 New Year Honours for political and public service. He was a member of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor.

At the Dods Charity Champion Awards 2011 Amess won the Animal Welfare and Environment Champion award, in which he was recognised formally for his leading role in and commitment to animal welfare, and was presented with the award by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, in the State Rooms of the Speaker's House. The award is given to the Parliamentarian who has done the most to tackle issues concerning the welfare of animals and the natural environment.

Amess received the 'Outstanding Achievement Award' at the Charity Champion Parliamentary reception hosted by Dods in 2012 in recognition of his lifetime commitment to charitable work.

He was nominated for the Policy Driver for Animal Rights Protection award at the Grassroot Diplomat Awards 2014 for his longstanding dedication to animal rights.

Personal life

He and his wife Julia Arnold had one son and four daughters. Julia was a part-time caseworker for her husband. His son, named after him, was jailed for four years in 2005 for wounding with intent after smashing a bottle of champagne over a man's head in a nightclub. Their eldest daughter is actress Katie Amess.

As an animal-lover, his family had several pets. In 2016, these included a rescue dog – a pug called Lily – and a variety of fish and wild animals in the garden. Lily was succeeded by a French bulldog called Vivienne who, in 2021, was entered into the Westminster Dog of the Year Show.

Death

On 15 October 2021, Amess was stabbed multiple times at his constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. He was treated at the scene, but later died from his injuries.