Crossbench peer Lord David Alton remembers his friend Sir David Amess
Lord David Alton has shared his memories of Sir David Amess who was stabbed to death on Friday in an attack during a constituency surgery.
The Lancashire based peer has spoken of his profound sorrow at the shocking news of Sir David's death.
Lord Alton, a renowned human rights campaigner and former Merseyside MP, who now serves as an independent crossbench member of the House of Lords, spoke of their friendship and shared faith and campaigns and of Sir David's outstanding record of caring for others and for his constituency.
Remembering that: "David’s causes were rooted in the neighbourhoods and people he represented" Lord Alton said: "We must never let that bond between MPs and their constituents be broken."
Of the atrocity he warned: "It must not be allowed to drain the life blood from our representative democracy. This was an attack on democracy itself. We would be making a terrible mistake – and I know it is not what David would have wanted – for his death to simply lead to more barriers being put between the people and their representatives."
He called on people of faith and people of no faith to work much harder to "create a more respectful society which honours difference and counters hate crime, violent language and violent acts."
Lord Alton remembered too "the grief of all whose lives have been devastated by heinous acts of terror or by knife crime."
Here is Lord Alton's tribute in full: "Over the past forty years David and I had become close friends and I have shared many platforms with him in his constituency and elsewhere. Before I came to Liverpool as a student, David and I both had our origins in the East End of London – and, within a year of one another, were baptised in the same church by the same Franciscan priest. His faith was part of his DNA and animated his belief in public service and in the promotion of the common good.
"I first met David when he came into the House of Commons in 1983. From across the House, we joined forces in taking up the case of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis and in 1997 thanks to David’s assiduous campaign a statue was erected to Wallenberg outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue.
"There were other campaigns about Soviet Jewry; about the plight of Alexander Ogorodnikov a Russian Orthodox dissident; and we frequently shared platforms to highlight persecution of people because of their religion or belief and together took up human rights violations, especially in Iran.
"The former Hyndburn MP, Ken Hargreaves, was one of his closest friends and David travelled up from London to join me at Ken’s funeral. David’s faith informed his passionate commitment to the right to life of the unborn, to human dignity and to the common good. But it was also rooted in his absolute conviction that an MP’s first priority was to their constituents – it was the death of a constituent from hypothermia which led to his successful Private Members Bill on fuel poverty.
"His recent campaigns ranged from seeking city status for his town of Southend to calling for a fitting memorial for the Forces Sweetheart, Dame Vera Lynn. Just a few weeks ago David asked me to take part in the launch of his memoir Ayes & Ears Typical of David’s kindness and generosity the proceeds of the book were dedicated to three charities: Endometriosis UK, Prost8 and the Leigh-on-Sea-based Music Man Project. David’s causes were rooted in the neighbourhoods and people he represented.
"And Mr Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is absolutely right that we must never let that bond between MPs and their constituents be broken. His commitment to direct face to face engagement with constituents was precious to him. Now it has taken his life, as it took the life of Jo Cox and Andy Pennington and the appalling threat to the life of another close friend, Rosie Cooper, the MP for West Lancs.
"But it must not be allowed to drain the life blood from our representative democracy. This was an attack on democracy itself. We would be making a terrible mistake – and I know it is not what David would have wanted – for his death to simply lead to more barriers being put between the people and their representatives.
"We will want to understand the killer’s motivations; to delve deeper into the failure of the Prevent programme; to understand the radicalisation which takes place in our prisons and also through the promotion of an intolerant and violent ideology. And beyond that we must enter into the grief of all whose lives have been devastated by heinous acts of terror or by knife crime.
"People of faith – from all the great religions – and people of no faith must work much harder to create a more respectful society which honours difference and counters hate crime, violent language and violent acts.
As David’s horrific death demonstrates, notwithstanding all the good in the world we still have the capacity to do truly evil things.
His death will have devastating consequences for his family and loved ones and my principal thoughts and prayers are with Julia and their children. May he now rest in peace."
* For details of Lancashire MPs' response to Sir David Amess's death see here