Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards pays tribute to Sir David Amess and discusses the wider issue of MP’s safety in our democracy.
Last Friday was a beautiful day, crisp autumn air, blue sky, dazzling sunshine.
Like many colleagues I was preparing to go back to Westminster after recess, deciding what debates I would speak in, preparing to host our first tour of parliament for constituents.
I had also spent the morning on Teams with the County Council, going over all the progress that’s been made to tackle flooding across Rushcliffe.
And I was getting ready to go to Gamston Community Hall to celebrate the end of an amazing nine month vaccine roll out by Team Gamston
And then a message flashed up on my WhatsApp
‘My God, Amess has been attacked in his surgery’
‘Stabbed multiple times’ the news reports said. I was shocked. Why on earth would anyone want to harm David? I typed to a colleague, he’s such a lovely, kind man.
By the time we pulled into the car park at Gamston it wasn’t looking good. Air ambulances on standby, receiving treatment at the scene. Still, I hoped for the best.
But it wasn’t to be. Within minutes news had started to trickle through, David hadn’t survived.
My stay was short, just long enough to thank the wonderful team for everything they had done.
But I couldn’t face conversation, I felt physically sick.
I still can’t equate the words ‘stabbed to death’ with David. I think it’s the horror and the violence of the way he died. It was such a contrast to the way he lived. He was a kind and gentle soul. Tenacious when fighting for his constituents and the causes he believed in like animal welfare, and the case for Southend to become a city, it was a long and varied list! He was a true original and always full of fun, his humour sparkling in his eyes.
He was kind to us newbies. He wasn’t grand, he didn’t have an agenda, he just welcomed us to the Parliamentary family. Only a few weeks ago he chaired a Westminster Hall debate on investment in the East Midlands. I remember his good humoured reminder of what we were meant to do and when, as it was the first week back after covid under normal parliamentary rules. I also remember his equally good natured acceptance of it all going south fairly quickly as we got stuck into the debate.
Inevitably, David’s death has prompted a debate about MP’s security. We have great support from our local police and security measures in our offices and homes. I live in fear of my visiting nephews accidentally setting off our panic alarm. But the truth is, there is no way for MPs to be completely safe. We can’t have constant police protection every time we knock on doors or have street surgeries, join parish council meetings or visit local businesses and schools. If nothing else, I worry it would make the constituents I was meeting feel like it was unsafe to meet me.
And to be honest, I could be attacked by someone when going about my normal daily life, popping to the shops, coming out of a restaurant. It could happen to any of us. Terrorism only succeeds if we let it change our values and our way of life, so that is precisely what we must not do. I will continue to pop up on high streets and in villages across Rushcliffe and anyone who wants to meet me in person at a surgery is very welcome.
The second debate David’s death will ignite is that of the nature of our political discourse. One thing I have always passionately believed is that my opponents are not my enemies. We may disagree on how to make the world a better place, but the vast majority of people, from all political parties want to do the right thing for their community and their country.
So I would like to thank everyone in Rushcliffe who has come forward to serve our community. Whether you are a member of Nottinghamshire County Council, Rushcliffe Borough Council or one of our many parish councils. Whatever party you represent or none, thank you for the work you do to help people every day.
Acts of terrorism, like the murder of Sir David, cut us to the heart. But they will never break us. They are motivated by hatred. But we are driven by a force that is even stronger, love. Love for our family, love for our neighbours, our community, vulnerable people at home and all over the world, love for nature, the animals and plants with which we share this earth.
And unlike the empty darkness of hate, love is something worth fighting for.