UK

Shattered family of murdered MP Sir David Amess say they are ‘absolutely broken’ by his death

The devastated family of Conservative MP Sir David Amess today said they are ‘absolutely broken’ by his killing, adding in an emotional statement: ‘As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way.’

Dozens of mourners have gathered at a special service in memory of the veteran MP for Southend West, a prominent Brexiteer and a devout Catholic who was allegedly stabbed to death by a suspected terrorist on Friday during a constituency surgery.

Floral tributes are piled up high outside Belfairs Methodist Church, the church in which the 69-year-old was allegedly knifed up to seventeen times by his killer, as Leigh-on-Sea residents celebrate Sir David’s life at St Michael and All Angels Church this evening. 

Some mourners were seen wiping away tears during the emotional vigil in memory of the popular politician, who had served the town for more than two decades and was first elected to Parliament in 1983 – the same intake as former Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

In a statement released through the Metropolitan Police, Sir David’s family said: ‘The family would like to thank everyone for the wonderful, wonderful tributes paid to David following his cruel and violent death. It truly has brought us so much comfort. The support shown by friends, constituents and the general public alike has been so overwhelming. As a family it has given us strength.

‘We have realised from tributes paid that there was far, far more to David than even we, those closest to him, knew. We are enormously proud of him. Our hearts are shattered. However, there was still so much David wanted to do – this we know from the events of the last few days. So, this is not the end of Sir David Amess MP. It is the next chapter and as a family we ask everyone to support the many charities he worked with. There are so many to mention, so find one close to your hearts and help.

‘David had recently joined a campaign to help raise funds for a memorial to Dame Vera Lynn. To him she epitomised the strength and courage of our nation. We would ask as many people as possible to support this and meet the target to complete the project.

‘Closer to home, David was working hard for Southend to gain city status. In his memory, please show your support for this campaign. Strong and courageous is an appropriate way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace. So, we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness.

‘Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand. As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody. Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man.

‘We ask at this time that the family’s privacy be respected so that we can grieve in private.’

Conservative colleague Mark Francois was among the many to lay flowers today. The Tory MP was visibly emotional as he kissed the bouquet before laying it down. ‘He was the best bloke I ever knew,’ Mr Francois said tearfully.

The Rayleigh and Wickford MP, 56, said that he would say more about his friend at the House of Commons tribute this week. Some of those paying their respects laid candles and personal photographs they had taken with the MP, who had represented Southend West since 1997, while others laid messages of love, support and sympathy. 

A service of reflection is held in memory of British MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death during a meeting with constituents, at the church of St Michael’s and all Angels, in Leigh-on-Sea, Britain

A photograph of Sir David is put on a table next to a candle ahead of a special church service in memory of the Tory MP, who died on Friday

A photograph of Sir David is put on a table next to a candle ahead of a special church service in memory of the Tory MP, who died on Friday

Emotions ran high during the event in memory of Sir David Amess MP

Some mourners were seen wiping away tears during the emotional vigil in memory of the popular politician, who had served the town for more than two decades

Some mourners were seen wiping away tears during the emotional vigil in memory of the popular politician, who had served the town for more than two decades

Sir David poses at the wedding of his daughter on August 23 earlier this year. He was stabbed multiple times inside a church while meeting constituents in Essex

Sir David poses at the wedding of his daughter on August 23 earlier this year. He was stabbed multiple times inside a church while meeting constituents in Essex

A police officer moves flowers left by the police cordon to the entrance of the Belfairs Methodist Church

A police officer moves flowers left by the police cordon to the entrance of the Belfairs Methodist Church

Flowers left by the police cordon are moved to the entrance of the Belfairs Methodist Church following the stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess on Friday

Flowers left by the police cordon are moved to the entrance of the Belfairs Methodist Church following the stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess on Friday

People listen to songs before the start of a special service in honour of Sir David Amess at St Michael's and All Angels Church

People listen to songs before the start of a special service in honour of Sir David Amess at St Michael’s and All Angels Church

Parishioners light candles at the end of a special service in honour of MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death on Friday

Parishioners light candles at the end of a special service in honour of MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death on Friday

A candle and a photo at a vigil at St Michael & All Angels church in Leigh-on-Sea Essex in memory of Sir David, who died after being stabbed in the town on Friday

A candle and a photo at a vigil at St Michael & All Angels church in Leigh-on-Sea Essex in memory of Sir David, who died after being stabbed in the town on Friday 

Sir David Amess reported ‘upsetting’ threat to the police but decided to go ahead with his weekly surgery… just days before he was knifed to death 

Sir David Amess received an ‘upsetting’ threat in the days before he was fatally stabbed inside a church at a constituency surgery in Essex.

The threat was reported to police, but the Conservative MP decided to go ahead with the surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday.

It comes as police raided the ‘childhood home’ of terror suspect Ali Harbi Ali on Sunday as part of their probe into the killing of the politician.

Essex Police received a report of the threat, but are not connecting it with Friday’s attack, reported The Telegraph.

 

Fellow Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell also laid flowers, saying: ‘David of all people didn’t deserve this to happen.’

‘What happened here was pure evil and it cannot be ignored,’ the Romford MP said. I just hope that lessons will be learned from this and that this kind of thing never happens again.’

Flowers, balloons and wreaths have piled up outside the police cordon near the church on the residential Essex street. Heartfelt messages from residents, local organisations and friends showed how highly Sir David was regarded by a wide range of people.

Many referred to his kind nature and service to the community. Most offered their condolences to the late father-of-five’s family.

Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, laid a wreath alongside Labour councillor Jas Athwal and other local politicians.

‘All of us across the political spectrum are stricken with grief for David and his family and also struggling to come to terms with the fact that this is the second time in five years that an MP has lost their lives in just the most appalling circumstances,’ Mr Streeting said.

Sir David’s death comes after the then Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016 as she was on her way to a constituency surgery.

One mourner at the church service also referred to Ms Cox, saying: ‘I’m wondering whether David now is reaching across to that other political martyr, Jo Cox, and they’re holding hands and thereby healing the great divisions in our politics which there have been over these last years.

‘I do hope so, I know David will in his way, where good could come out of evil, bring healing.’

At the murder scene, a steady stream of residents, including a local junior football team, filed down the street throughout the day to lay flowers. Les Thorington, an 87-year-old Korean War veteran, stood up from his wheelchair to salute Sir David in front of the floral tributes.

He said he wanted to pay his respects to the MP, whose death he called ‘bewildering,’ because Sir David had attended many veterans’ meetings and he ‘appreciated the support’.

A 25-year-old man, understood to be Ali Harbi Ali, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of Sir David’s murder and remains in police custody. He has been detained under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and a warrant of further detention, which allows detectives to hold the suspect until October 22, was granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.

Prevent programme will be reviewed to see if it is ‘fit for purpose’, says Priti Patel – as it is claimed suspect in David Amess terror murder ‘had been referred’ to anti-radicalisation scheme 

The Home Secretary has said the Prevent programme is being reviewed to ensure it is fit for purpose as it is claimed the suspect in the murder of Sir David Amess ‘had been referred’ to the scheme.

Priti Patel said the independent review of the programme, which is aimed at stopping people from being radicalised, would help ‘address any gaps’ in the service.

It comes after reports that the prime suspect in the murder of Sir David Amess was known to counter-terror police and it is believed he had been referred to the Prevent programme.

The Southend West MP was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday afternoon.

Scotland Yard have since designated the incident as a terror attack and counter-terror officers are leading the investigation, probing motives linked to Islamist extremism.

The Home Office would not comment on reports that the suspect has the same details as a man previously referred to Prevent, the Government’s anti-terror scheme.

It comes after constituents last night went to St Peters Church in Leigh-on-Sea to shed a tear at the shocking death of their beloved MP and on Saturday afternoon dozens of well-wishers lit candles and gathered to remember the life of Sir David outside the town’s Civic Centre.

Outside Southend police station, Home Secretary Priti Patel said a ‘balance’ must be struck between the accessibility and safety of MPs as questions are raised over whether face-to-face meetings should be held in constituencies in the future.

Southend faith leaders called Sir David’s death an ‘indefensible atrocity’ and described the father-of-five as an ‘upstanding friend to our Muslim community’ who had attended weddings, mosque openings and the launch of the town’s first Muslim Scout group.

In a statement published on the Essex Jamme Masjid website, on behalf of ‘all Southend mosques’, they said their thoughts and prayers were with Sir David’s family, friends and colleagues. It comes five years after Labour MP for Batley and Spen Jo Cox was murdered on her way to a surgery in 2016.

It comes as it was today claimed Sir David received an ‘upsetting’ threat in the days before he was fatally stabbed inside a church at a constituency surgery in Essex.

The threat was reported to police, but the Conservative MP decided to go ahead with the surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday.  

Essex Police received a report of the threat, but are not connecting it with Friday’s attack, The Telegraph reported.

John Lamb, former Leigh-on-Sea mayor and a close colleague of Sir David, said the MP had received an ‘upsetting’ threat in the few days prior to the killing.

He told the Telegraph: ‘The police were alerted about some sort of threat made against Sir David. There’s been no threat received through the local Conservative Party offices that I know of, but Sir David had received a threat against him. 

‘I don’t know the nature of it, but it was rather upsetting and the police were alerted. It was in the past few days.’ 

Police have raided the ‘childhood home’ of terror suspect Ali Harbi Ali as part of their probe into the killing.

Officers searched the home in a quiet street in Croydon, south London , on Friday. A neighbour today told MailOnline how Ali, a 25-year-old British Muslim who is alleged to have murdered the stalwart MP in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday, grew up in the terrace property before leaving in his late teens.

Conservative MP Sir David Amess is said to have received an 'upsetting' threat in the days before the constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, according to a close colleague

Conservative MP Sir David Amess is said to have received an ‘upsetting’ threat in the days before the constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, according to a close colleague

Conservative Colleague Mark Francois was among the many to lay flowers at at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Sir David was killed on Friday

Conservative Colleague Mark Francois was among the many to lay flowers at at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Sir David was killed on Friday

Some laid candles and personal photographs they had taken with the MP, who had represented the Southend West area since 1997 and had been since 1982. Others laid messages of love, support and sympathy

Some laid candles and personal photographs they had taken with the MP, who had represented the Southend West area since 1997 and had been since 1982. Others laid messages of love, support and sympathy

Members of the public, including a veteran, pay their respects at as a large number of floral tributes have been left at the scene of the fatal stabbing

Members of the public, including a veteran, pay their respects at as a large number of floral tributes have been left at the scene of the fatal stabbing

Police officers erect a tent outside a house in north London, thought to be in relation to the death of the Conservative MP. A man has been arrested and officers are not looking for anyone else

Police officers erect a tent outside a house in north London, thought to be in relation to the death of the Conservative MP. A man has been arrested and officers are not looking for anyone else

An ongoing investigation into Sir David's death has been focusing on multiple areas including Camden, Croydon and another unspecified address in London

An ongoing investigation into Sir David’s death has been focusing on multiple areas including Camden, Croydon and another unspecified address in London

‘I put the phone down and cried with my head on the table’: Husband of murdered MP Jo Cox tells of moment he learned about fatal stabbing of Sir David Amess during weekly surgery 

The husband of murdered MP Jo Cox has said the death of Sir David Amess took him back to the day his wife was killed.

Brendan Cox said his reaction to the news that another MP had been killed in the line of duty was ‘immediate and physical’.

Writing in The Sun, he said: ‘I put the phone down and cried with my head on the table, shaking uncontrollably.’

His wife Jo was stabbed and shot while attending a meeting in her constituency of Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire five and a half years ago.

On Friday afternoon, Southend West MP Sir David was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Writing in The Sun, Mr Cox said he broke down in tears and was ‘shaking uncontrollably’ after learning of the latest attack and said his first instinct was to reach out to Sir David’s family.

‘Having been through something similar I wanted the family to know that anything I could do, any advice or just solidarity, I would give gratefully,’ he said.

It comes as Met Police officers were today seen guarding a property in a tree-lined street in north London, where Ali is believed to currently live.

Officers were seen walking into the property this morning and a blue and yellow tent has this afternoon but erected outside the council-owned property on the street, where homes sell for around £2million. Detectives meanwhile have been interviewing the father of murder suspect Ali at a home in north London.

Harbi Ali Kullane, 61, is a former media spokesman for the Prime Minister of Somalia, who, according to neighbours, splits his time between London and Nairobi – where he also has a home. He confirmed that his son was in police custody following the stabbing and said he was ‘traumatised’ by the arrest.

In Croydon, a neighbour of Ali’s ‘childhood’ home, where he is believed to have lived while attending a nearby Church of England school, claimed the terror suspect had once told him how he worked for the NHS .

Speaking to MailOnline, he said: ‘This is the house he grew up in. He went to school around here and moved out when he was about 16 or 17-years-old. He worked for the health service – he told me so – but in what capacity I don’t know. I think one of his sisters also works for the NHS. They are a lovely family, it’s such a shock that Ali has been arrested for such a terrible thing.

‘His mum and sisters helped my wife and I during lockdown, they went and got my shopping when I needed it and my medication. They’d do anything to help us. That’s why I can’t understand it all. I last saw Ali around Christmas time last year and he was friendly, asked me how I was. He was a tall lad with quite bushy hair.

‘I saw one of his sisters talking to the police on Friday afternoon and I haven’t seen the family since. There were three police cars and some unmarked vehicles.’

Another local resident added: ‘The police were searching the house and the garage. I don’t know if they found anything of note. The family have been here for more than 20-years and are very quiet but really nice, friendly people. The children didn’t play out much, they always tended to be inside studying.’

It comes as security sources told The Mail on Sunday how they believed the killer of Sir David had planned the murderous assault more than a week in advance.

Sources revealed that the attacker was thought to have booked an appointment at Sir David’s constituency surgery before stabbing the politician 17 times.

Ali, who is thought to have previously been targeted by the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme, may have lived in Sir David’s Southend West constituency in Essex in the past. His sister is believed to be living in the constituency.

His most recent residence, meanwhile, is believed to be in London. Officers have been carrying out searches at three addresses in the capital. 

SARAH VINE: The death threat inside my daughter’s 18th birthday card reveals how abuse of MPs and their families is a modern blood sport

By SARAH VINE for the MAIL ON SUNDAY

By all accounts, Sir David Amess was the gentlest and kindest of men – a veteran public servant who dedicated his life to his constituents. He never harboured ministerial ambitions, preferring to campaign on local issues directly affecting the people he represented. He was old-school: an MP who brought about real change for real people.

I came across him only once, very briefly, years ago, at that most quirky of parliamentary events, the Westminster Dog of the Year show. Sir David loved animals and fought all his life for their welfare.

He and his beloved French bulldog, Vivienne, were hot favourites to win 2021’s contest. ‘If I am feeling down, she lifts my spirits as she is always pleased to see me and she makes me smile,’ he said, adding that she deserved to win ‘because she is an enthusiastic supporter of Southend becoming a city!’

Now Vivienne and Southend have lost their greatest champion and Parliament mourns the passing of one of its most enduring members. Saddest of all, though, is that his family – Sir David had five children with his wife Julia Arnold – have lost a beloved father and husband.

There truly are some moments when the words can’t reach, and this is one of them. It was the same when the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in 2016 in similar circumstances to Sir David, serving her constituents at a surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

An act of senseless brutality that shocks and confuses and calls into question everything we’ve ever believed about the fundamental decency of the human spirit, reminding us that evil really does exist, and that it doesn’t discriminate.

Of course MPs aren’t the only public servants who face violence and threats in the line of duty. Let us not forget men like PC Keith Palmer, who was killed during the 2017 Westminster attack, or PC Andrew Harper, who died in horrific circumstances in 2019.

But a fatal attack on a MP on a quiet Friday afternoon in a Methodist church is not just a wicked act of violence against an innocent man, it’s also a blow to the very heart and soul of Britain as a liberal democracy.

Tory MP Sir David Amess on his daughter's wedding day, just weeks before he was killed

Tory MP Sir David Amess on his daughter’s wedding day, just weeks before he was killed

Let us not forget men like PC Keith Palmer, who was killed during the 2017 Westminster attack

Let us not forget men like PC Keith Palmer, who was killed during the 2017 Westminster attack

British Politician Jo Cox was murdered by Thomas Mair in similar circumstances in 2016

British Politician Jo Cox was murdered by Thomas Mair in similar circumstances in 2016

It’s at times like this that all the freedoms and rights we take for granted feel as vulnerable as a single human life. So easily snuffed out by evil or prejudice or just plain insanity, and with them all civilisation and reason.

Because people such as Sir David don’t just represent those who elect them, they represent democracy itself, that most fragile of political systems which, while far from perfect, remains the fairest and most tolerant form of government we’ve got.

Quite simply, our elected representatives are all that stand between us and the kind of despotic, barbaric regimes we see rampaging out of control elsewhere in the world. Without them, we would be at the mercy of corruption and chaos; without them there would be no such thing as justice, only the brutal will of the strongest.

It’s easy to forget that this is the case, especially in a world of cheap headlines and rampant egos of the kind who, like Nick Robinson, think they can tell the Prime Minister to ‘stop talking’ as though he were nothing more than a cocky teenager.

But then that is what it means to live in a democracy: freedom of expression and the right to challenge authority.

But there is also an irony here. Because it is precisely democracy, and in particular the defence of free speech, that is partly responsible for not only these fatal attacks on MPs, but for the astonishing level of daily abuse and threats that all MPs – and their families – suffer in the course of their work.

It is no coincidence that these attacks have rocketed in intensity since the advent of social media. Unchecked, unregulated and uncensored by the rules that govern traditional media outlets, social media platforms have become breeding grounds for hate, feeding the worst and darkest aspects of the human psyche by allowing abuse and lies to flourish.

Abdicating all responsibility on the grounds that they are not, per se, ‘publishers’, but merely ‘platforms’ – and therefore not responsible for third-party content – they act as cauldrons for extremism and paranoia, disseminating half-truths and bogus conspiracies and allowing certain groups or individuals to be grotesquely misrepresented and vilified. All without acknowledging one iota of responsibility for the outcome.

This has resulted in a situation where abuse against public figures has not only become a kind of online blood sport, it’s also become thoroughly normalised.

The childish and toxic popularism of individuals such as Angela Rayner (pictured), who seem to think it's OK to call her fellow parliamentarians 'homophobic, racist, misogynistic Tory scum' for the sake of a cheap round of applause, means it's not hard to see how, in an unsound or wicked mind, stabbing a defenceless man to death might seem justified, SARAH VINE writes

The childish and toxic popularism of individuals such as Angela Rayner (pictured), who seem to think it’s OK to call her fellow parliamentarians ‘homophobic, racist, misogynistic Tory scum’ for the sake of a cheap round of applause, means it’s not hard to see how, in an unsound or wicked mind, stabbing a defenceless man to death might seem justified, SARAH VINE writes

In the same way that, over the years, online pornography has gradually legitimised violence against women, seeding patterns of toxic behaviour in all areas of life, from pop music to the playground, and culminating in the depraved crimes of men such as Wayne Couzens, so the persistent bile and vitriol aimed at MPs across various social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter eggs on sick individuals, encouraging and – perhaps most importantly – enabling abusive and dangerous behaviour.

Add to that the childish and toxic popularism of individuals such as Angela Rayner, who seem to think it’s OK to call her fellow parliamentarians ‘homophobic, racist, misogynistic Tory scum’ for the sake of a cheap round of applause, and it’s not hard to see how, in an unsound or wicked mind, stabbing a defenceless man to death might seem justified.

There are now almost no limits to the level of abuse many MPs – and in particular Tory MPs, who are also affected by the vitriolic and desperation-driven tactics of the far Left – now face.

By way of example, take the 18th birthday card addressed to my daughter that popped through the front door earlier this year. With her name and address in multi-coloured childish writing, it looked like something from a cousin or friend.

Excitedly, she opened it. Inside a card that read ’18 today! Yay!’ with a badge attached saying ’18, Woo!’

And inside that, in letters cut out from a magazine or newspaper, the following message: ‘Tell your dad that if he doesn’t [and here I can’t specify for security reasons] he won’t live to see you turn 19. Do not make this public.’

Of all the many messages of hate and harassment we have as a family received over the years (and believe me, there have been plenty), that one shook me the most.

It was not just that the person had our home address (again, thank you social media and the internet – not to mention whoever it was who daubed it on a wall in Northern Ireland), it was the fact that in seeking to harm my husband, they had chosen to threaten my daughter.

As a mother, that provokes a visceral response. That is someone who doesn’t care they are attacking a wholly blameless 17-year-old, violating her identity and threatening to kill her father if she doesn’t comply with their demands.

They don’t see her as human; to them she is just a legitimate vehicle for their own hatred.

No matter that now her 18th birthday will always be marred by the memory of that sickly executed death threat, or that a part of her will always live in fear of her father suffering the same terrible fate as kind, sweet, animal-loving Sir David.

Who cares? After all, we are all just ‘scum’, aren’t we, Angela?

No doubt over the next days and weeks there will be much discussion about what is to be done, and how we can ensure the safety of our parliamentarians. I’m afraid it will all come to nothing.

Because unless the public is prepared to pay for all MPs to have enhanced security, which, let’s face it, is unlikely in the current economic climate, you won’t ever stop individuals with hate and determination in their hearts.

Besides, the enemy here is a far greater one. It’s a culture of loathing and abuse that hangs low like a toxic cloud around all our heads.

It’s a world where someone who dedicates their entire life to helping others can be labelled as ‘scum’, and where political discourse is conducted in 280-character bursts by pond-life who wouldn’t even make it out of the slime were it not for the swamp provided by social media.

Until that changes, nothing will change. All MPs and their families can do is pray for their lost colleagues. And hope that next time it’s not them.

DAN HODGES: I don’t know why Sir David Amess was killed but the visceral hatred of Tories at the heart of Labour has to end right now

By DAN HODGES for the MAIL ON SUNDAY

I last saw David Amess a fortnight ago in the slightly incongruous setting of a houseboat moored on the Manchester Ship Canal.  

We were attending the annual conference party thrown by Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, where David was in typically ebullient form.

As he left, he asked about my mother – the former Labour MP for Hampstead & Highgate – with whom he used to spar across the Commons chamber.

‘Give her my love,’ he requested, ‘though I’m not sure she would remember me.’

All Labour MPs remember David. His surprise victory in Basildon on Election night 1992 brought an end to the party’s hopes of ousting John Major.

But it was never held against him. As the warmth and sincerity of the tributes that have been paid from the Labour benches attest.

All Labour MPs remember David. His surprise victory in Basildon on Election night 1992 brought an end to the party’s hopes of ousting John Major

All Labour MPs remember David. His surprise victory in Basildon on Election night 1992 brought an end to the party’s hopes of ousting John Major

Though not all of those tributes have been welcomed. As news of the appalling attack was filtering through, a tweet from Angela Rayner expressing her own sympathies provoked anger from several Tory MPs and officials.

‘She was calling us scum a few days ago,’ one told me. ‘She doesn’t get to express sympathy today.’

In the immediate aftermath of a horrifying event such as this, it’s understandable that emotions run high. So it’s important not to reach for knee-jerk-reactions, or apportion unnecessary blame.

But when an elected Member of Parliament has just been stabbed to death in their constituency surgery – and a house of worship – it’s also important not to hide unpalatable truths.

A court case is pending, and the terrible facts surrounding the death of David Amess will be brought to light. 

But those seeking a direct parallel between the comments of Angela Rayner and the attack in Leigh-on-Sea should desist. Whatever motivated his killer, it will not prove to have been some ill-advised words at a Labour fringe meeting.

But if the brutal killing of a Conservative MP should not be used to draw inappropriate political parallels, it should at least give people pause.

And more specifically, it should give people on the Left pause.

When Jo Cox was murdered, a consensus quickly formed, one that prevails. It held that while she was murdered by a single individual, he did not act alone.

Thomas Mair was a product of what was loosely dubbed ‘far-Right’ extremism. He had links to the National Front and the English Defence League, and toured the internet, immersing himself in extremist far-Right propaganda.

Poison that still exists today. It can be seen in the fragmented but still active far-Right hate groups. It can be seen at the fringes of elements of the pro-Brexit movement. And it can increasingly be identified among elements of the anti-vax movement.

So the threat of Right-wing extremism is real. But at least it is recognised and, in the main, universally condemned by the political mainstream. And it exists primarily on the political fringes.

This morning, we have to begin to talk about and confront the scourge of Left-wing extremism.

It is a very different creature to the extremism of the Right. It is less overtly violent. But it is equally toxic and represents an equal risk to our democracy and its parliamentary representatives. Because, crucially, it does not reside on the political margins.

When an elected Member of Parliament has just been stabbed to death in their constituency surgery – and a house of worship – it’s also important not to hide unpalatable truths

When an elected Member of Parliament has just been stabbed to death in their constituency surgery – and a house of worship – it’s also important not to hide unpalatable truths

One of the tributes issued to David Amess was from Labour MP John McDonnell. But in 2011, McDonnell said this: ‘I want to be in a situation where no Tory MP, no Tory or MP, no Coalition Minister, can travel anywhere in the country or show their face anywhere in public without being challenged by direct action.’ 

He added: ‘Any institution or any individual that attacks our class, we will come for you with direct action.’

Another of the tributes issued to David Amess came from Jeremy Corbyn. But recently the former Labour leader spoke at a fringe meeting at conference, at which he said: ‘You’ve probably noticed members of the Socialist Campaign Group disproportionately go through hell, high water and beyond at the hands of the media and the briefing machines… can we just have a thought tonight in absolute solidarity with our great friend Claudia Webbe for what she’s going through?’

Last Wednesday, Webbe was found guilty of harassment after threatening to throw acid at her partner’s female friend, and to send naked photos of her to her children.

The hatred on the far Right of politics is – rightly – well documented. But it’s no longer sustainable to continue to ignore and normalise the hatred nurtured within the mainstream of the Labour Party and the wider Labour movement.

When it was reported that Iain Duncan Smith and his wife had been assaulted walking towards the secure zone of the Tory Party conference, it was done so almost as an afterthought. The abuse and harassment of Conservative MPs and delegates attending their conference has become so routine it barely merits comment.

In fact, a perception has formed that for Tories this is merely the price of doing business.

Within Labour – the mainstream of the party, not the fringe – that is literally the view. The belief is that the Tories, simply because they are Tories, deserve what’s coming to them.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Angela Rayner did not brand all her Conservative parliamentary colleagues ‘scum’ because she really believes they’re all scum. She said it because she’s politically ambitious, and she thinks to get on in the Labour Party this is what her members want to hear. And she’s right, they do.

When it was reported that Iain Duncan Smith and his wife had been assaulted walking towards the secure zone of the Tory Party conference, it was done so almost as an afterthought

When it was reported that Iain Duncan Smith and his wife had been assaulted walking towards the secure zone of the Tory Party conference, it was done so almost as an afterthought

Politics is tough. All parties attempt to caricature – and to an extent demonise – their opponents. It was Conservative Central Office that was behind the most literal example, the Tony Blair ‘Demon Eyes’ poster. 

But it is no longer possible to draw equivalence about the toxicity that exists within the two main parties. A visceral hatred of Tories is now embedded in Labour’s DNA in a way that is simply not reciprocated.

John McDonnell is not some Twitter warrior, but the former Labour Shadow Chancellor. Does anyone seriously think Rishi Sunak would contemplate instructing Tory activists to subject his opponents to the ominous-sounding direct action?

Could anyone imagine Theresa May expressing ‘solidarity’ with a Tory MP a day after evidence had been presented in court they had threatened to throw acid in someone’s face?

It’s not OK any more. Casual hatred of Conservative politicians and activists simply for committing the crime of being Conservatives is not acceptable. Not just because it ultimately proves counterproductive to the Left’s cause. Or because of the threat it poses to wider political engagement and democratic discourse. It’s wrong because it’s wrong.

A visceral hatred of Tories is now embedded in Labour’s DNA in a way that is simply not reciprocated. John McDonnell is not some Twitter warrior, but the former Labour Shadow Chancellor

A visceral hatred of Tories is now embedded in Labour’s DNA in a way that is simply not reciprocated. John McDonnell is not some Twitter warrior, but the former Labour Shadow Chancellor

And everyone – at least every sensible, decent person, of which there are many – in Labour’s ranks knows it’s wrong. Keir Starmer knows it. Angela Rayner knows it. Every Labour MP knows it. How ‘Never Kissed A Tory’ hatred is the currency of Labour politics.

It can’t continue like this. It can’t take the killing of a Conservative MP in their constituency office for the Left to set aside their tribalism and acknowledge the essential decency of one of their opponents.

Not least because that tribalism will not be set aside for long. Tomorrow, the House of Commons will gather for a moment of reflection. Sir Keir Starmer and other Labour MPs will help lead the tributes. And then it will be back to business as usual. ‘Tories – they hate the poor, they hate the migrants. They deserve everything they get.’

They don’t. Because they’re not ‘scum’. Tories are good, honest, decent, committed public servants, who just happen to have a different political philosophy.

David Amess wasn’t the exception, he was the rule. And it’s time for people on the Left – indeed, for all of us – to start to recognise it.


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