By now few will be unaware of the terrible news that Sir David Amess, Conservative MP for Leigh-on-Sea, and 69-year-old father of five, lost his life in a brutal knife attack in a constituency meeting at Belfairs Methodist Church.
The 25-year-old assailant, Ali Harbi Ali, was arrested at the scene of the crime, after a frenzied attack in which Sir David was stabbed 17 times. Ali was born in Britain and grew up in comfortable circumstances. It is believed that he was radicalised by watching YouTube videos of convicted hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
Police still do not know why Sir David was targeted. At first they believed that it was because of his religious or pro-life views, but Ali may simply have wanted to kill the first national politician he could find.
The 69-year-old veteran parliamentarian was noted for his friendliness to all — even to political opponents — and tributes have poured in from all sides, including Conservative leader Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A backbench MP devoted to his constituency, a keen Brexiteer, supporter of the State of Israel and animal welfare campaigner, Sir David was a devout Catholic, committed to the defence of Christians worldwide from persecution, and the protection of human life from conception to its natural end. He was regarded as a social conservative because of his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
He and his wife Julia Arnold had five children, including Katie Amess, a well-known British actress.
His family called for Britons to “set aside hatred”. “Nobody should die in that way. Nobody. Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man.”
Although not one of his constituents, many years ago I had the privilege of meeting Sir David in his constituency office to discuss pro-life matters; my abiding memory of our chat is his devotion to the cause of protecting the most vulnerable, as well as his kindness, friendly manner, and — as many have recalled – his devotion to his Essex constituency and keenness to promote its interests.
He was especially interested in my interest in Southend, a seaside town noted for its famous pier, which has now lost one of its greatest attractions and brightest stars. Recently, Sir David “questioned the Prime Minister about the curse of knife crime and asked what extra measures could be brought in to stem the tide of violence.”
It is tragic to think that a doughty defender of life, especially of the most vulnerable, has lost his life in these most prosperous but also, paradoxically, most pessimistic of times – an age that has become used to killing as the solution to problems.
He may be gone from among us; he may have lost his own fight for life; but his shining example will beam all the brighter for being so suddenly, so cruelly and so prematurely extinguished.