Dilemma for MPs in wake of Sir David Amess stabbing

Amess stabbing

Conservative MP Sir David Amess has lost his life after being stabbed today - October 15 - at a constituency surgery. - Credit: PA

We will all have been shocked to hear about the fatal stabbing of Sir David Amess MP on Friday. My thoughts go to his family, friends, and colleagues.

It is obvious that he was held in a great deal of affection by those who knew him, regardless of political affiliation. Some of the most touching tributes I have seen were from Labour MPs to whom he had shown great kindness or consideration.

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Sir David Amess speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. - Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

To many of my generation, David Amess was the face of the Conservative general election win in 1992. His victory in Basildon was the first indication that John Major was going to hang on as Prime Minister.

He was never a government minister, instead devoting himself to his constituency. It was clear from the TV news on Friday that his loss will be felt just as keenly by his residents.

The horrific circumstances of his death echo the murder of Jo Cox five years ago and must make us think about the safety of MPs and indeed all elected politicians.

It is a real dilemma, as most MPs and councillors pride themselves on being accessible to their public. This is essential in a democracy. If you are going to represent the views of your constituents, then they need to be able to tell you what they are thinking.

This can be through formal methods of letter, phone, email or advice surgery. Just as valuable can be the chance encounter in the street.

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Pre-covid, I always used to factor in some extra time if I was walking through the town centre because I could pretty much guarantee that I’d be stopped by someone who wanted a chat.

Politicians are not so accessible in all countries. When Keir Starmer visited Ipswich a few months ago, we met an Italian who had his picture taken with the Labour Leader. He was astonished that he could just walk up to a national politician in the street. This would simply not be possible in Italy – armed police would stop that.

Our democracy would be greatly diminished if we were to lose the ability of the public to speak directly to their elected representatives. We must do all we can to retain this while ensuring that our politicians are kept safe from harm.