Knife attack survivor MP insists politicians 'must remain accessible' to public

18 October 2021, 19:02

By James Morris

A Labour MP who was once stabbed at a constituency surgery has said MPs must remain “accessible” to the public in the wake of the killing of Sir David Amess.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms was stabbed twice in the stomach by student Roshonara Choudhry in May 2010, but survived the attack.

Conservative MP Sir David was also holding a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday when he was fatally stabbed.

The 69-year-old father-of-five was known for taking pride in being available to his Southend West constituents.

And speaking in the House of Commons today, Mr Timms said this attitude must be allowed to continue.

“He was accessible to his constituents," Mr Timms said. "Tragically, he has now given his life. We will rightly reflect on what more we can do to stop that happening again.

Sir David Amess
Sir David Amess. Picture: Getty

“I wonder if we might ask the police to review our appointment lists ahead of each surgery, for example.

“But we mustn’t give up on the accessibility of MPs. If we do, the sponsors of those who attacked David, and who attacked me, will have succeeded. That must not happen.”

Nearly all House of Commons business was suspended today in order to allow MPs to pay tribute to Sir David, who had served as an MP for 38 years.

Kim Leadbeater, whose MP sister Jo Cox was murdered on constituency duties by far-right terrorist Thomas Mair in 2016, recalled the moment she found out about the attack five years ago.

"I remember physically trembling and the visceral pain that overtook me. And it breaks my heart to think that another family has had to experience that phone call and the nightmare which follows."

She added: "I know that wider discussions will now take place about the safety of MPs, the awful abuse an intimidation we face, the nature of political discourse and how we can deal with the evils of terrorism. And it’s quite right they do, but today is about David and his family."

Sir David's seat in the Commons chamber was left empty today
Sir David's seat in the Commons chamber was left empty today. Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Ms Leadbeater said she did not know Sir David personally, but that he "was clearly a well-respected and much loved colleague to many people in this place".

Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had led the tributes, confirming Southend will be granted city status in his honour.

Sir David was famous for his long-standing campaign to turn the Essex town into a city, and the prime minister said it was only a "short time" ago that Sir David had once again lobbied him over the issue.

To huge cheers in the chamber, he confirmed: "I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves."

He added of Sir David, who never held a ministerial role in his four decades in the Commons: "That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this House, but not one day in ministerial office, tells everything about where his priorities lay."

The PM said the country "needs people like Sir David".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was "so pleased" at the announcement of Southend becoming a city, telling the Commons: "It is a fitting tribute to Sir David's hard work, it really is.

"Fitting, because David delivered for the causes he championed. He passed a Bill that forced action on fuel poverty, he paved the way for better standards of fire safety and delivered protections for animal welfare."

Former PM Theresa May said every MP has "lost a friend" as she paid tribute to Sir David, telling the Commons: "Laughter, service, compassion - these are three of the words that spring to my mind when I think of David Amess."

Ms May said he gave an "extraordinary" service to his constituents, adding: "I suggest to anybody who wants to be a first-class constituency MP that you look at the example of David Amess."

She added Sir David "made a difference to people's lives", before noting it was a "wonderful legacy" that Southend will be given city status.

Ms May also urged MPs to "bring the same respect, decency and compassion that were the symbols of his life" when discussing issues.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford described the loss of Sir David as "devastating" and said it had "once again" laid bare the "twin threat" of terrorism and "the toxic culture of hate and intolerance that has become all too common".

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He said: "For too long we have been dragged down a path where passionate disagreement has been infected by poison. All of us can do better not to feed into that corrosive culture. All of us have been a victim of it, and every single one of us have a responsibility to put an end to it."

Prime minister Mr Johnson later led a sombre procession of around 800 politicians as they filed in to a church service to remember their murdered colleague.

Boris Johnson leads MPs to the service for Sir David Amess
Boris Johnson leads MPs to the service for Sir David Amess. Picture: Getty

Wearing black suits, dresses, and face coverings, the MPs and peers walked from Parliament to St Margaret's Church in Westminster Abbey, central London.

Police have until Friday to question a man suspected of killing MP Sir David.

Counter-terrorism officers are quizzing a 25-year-old – understood to be Ali Harbi Ali, a British citizen – who is in custody after being arrested on suspicion of murder.