Obituary: Sir David Amess MP
BY JOHNNY JENKINS
John interviewed Sir David Amess many times, including above in his office. Amess was John's MP all his life so far and represented the Southend area for nearly 40 years.
It was my 16th birthday. I was on work experience with my MP Sir David Amess in his Westminster office, which looked over the parliamentary estate. He didn’t know it was my birthday, I hadn’t told anybody. But, somehow he found out. David swooped in with a bottle of House of Commons fizz, poured us all a glass to wish me happy birthday.
Each morning David would come in and ask the team what they had planned for me today. If he wasn’t satisfied I was getting the full experience, he would take matters into his own hands. ‘Come with me’, he’d say. We’re off to the chamber, a select committee or a posh event with high-profile politicians.
I had met David many times before, interviewing him regularly for the school newspaper, which I edited from age 11. He always had time and patience as we stumbled over questions he’d been asked a million times before. I interviewed him in 2015 after he had been knighted for services to politics and public service. He was so pleased to have this honour bestowed upon him because it was an honour for the people of Southend, not just for him.
An interview later that year saw me, now 14, quizzing him on his policies in the general election. He was interviewed alongside his friend former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe. I had an audience of local Tories watching as I asked him if we really needed a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
He campaigned throughout his life to leave the EU. His mother, who lived to 104, also believed strongly in Brexit. David also campaigned for animal welfare, pro-life issues and the rights of disabled people.
Everybody in Southend has a story to tell about David because he spent so much time speaking with his constituents and listening to their stories. That’s why his advice surgeries were always packed. I often attended to interview him on the issue of the day. He made time for you, asked after your family and invited you back.
I’m so disturbed by his killing partly because it happened at a public surgery. Just minutes before, David was helping a constituent to establish a parliament for young children. Had he not been attacked, he would’ve continued helping people throughout the afternoon. He was due to attend a Conservative dinner in Southend on Friday evening. His friends and colleagues knew he’d be late - he always stopped to chat to a constituent on the way.
I was Youth Mayor of Southend for six months when I was 16. Part of the role involved attending events and functions. David was always there. We used to joke that he would turn up to the opening of an envelope! That is why he was such a special MP - he cared. Never seeking a ministerial role, David was content as just a backbench MP for almost four decades. We couldn’t have asked for a better constituency representative.
David cared so much about the area that he campaigned tirelessly in Parliament for Southend to be made a city. The town has recently submitted its bid for city status, marked by a launch event attended by David and other officials. It would only be fitting that the great town of Southend is made a city in honour of our lost public servant - the MP who will be remembered for his kindness, warmth and devotion to the people he represented.
Images - John Jenkins