This week I return to Parliament to pay my respects and grieve for a dear colleague and friend, Sir David Amess. David was brutally killed on Friday. Stabbed to death at his constituency surgery which was being held in a church.
David was the Member of Parliament for Southend West. He was kind and fun. He was down to earth with a solid sense of decency and traditional values. In all my dealings with him he was unfailingly courteous and generous.
Since 2017, before I was elected, he had been in regular correspondence with me. Reaching out with kindness and providing solace. He had a powerful sense of right and wrong. Of justice and injustice. Of how things should be done. He had an extraordinary knack, an insight, for just what to say, as well as when to say it.
He was a Christian soul, a fellow Catholic, and his life fully reflected the Christian virtues and the very best of living a Christian life. He lived a life of duty, sacrifice, commitment and service to others. He understood struggle and pain. But he also enjoyed life. He loved people. He had a lightness and vivacity. A love of life and an enthusiasm that drew people to him and was infectious.
Most recently we have been working together on the Dame Vera Lynn memorial project at the White Cliffs of Dover. He has spearheaded this project since the very beginning. Earlier this year we had a parliamentary debate to press the case for the memorial. David spoke about Dame Vera’s life, her values, her charitable good works and tremendous spirit. He spoke movingly of her signature song and how right it is that she will be remembered, alongside her famous bluebirds, at the White Cliffs.
He was a great entertainer as well as an effective campaigner. My enduring memories of David will be us together arm in arm singing along to Dame Vera songs in Dover’s Maison Dieu. Him taking selfies at the foot of the White Cliffs. Enjoying a pub lunch at the Coastguard in St Margaret’s while marvelling at the clear view to the French coastline.
David and I shared similar poor working class backgrounds, the same Catholic faith, a commitment to creating opportunity and social mobility. It was fitting that the Dame Vera project is part of a Levelling Up fund bid. One that brings together opportunity, jobs, culture and entertainment. The project was very close to David’s heart. It is fitting that we see the project through to completion. We will find an opportunity in the Dame Vera Lynn park to recognise David’s immense contribution and dedication to the nation. A lovely man who was a true friend to me, and a friend to Dover.