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UK politics

Why David Amess was always late

A graffiti mural of David Amess in Leigh-on-Sea. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

On Saturday the supermarket 100 yards from where the MP David Amess was stabbed to death was cleared out of flowers, says The Sunday Times. “Every tulip, rose and pansy had been scooped up and deposited at the tribute for the man alternately known as ‘Sir David’ or simply ‘Dave’.”

Every Southend resident seems to have a story about their MP: he would visit a nurse on the cancer ward for a cup of tea; on Christmas Day he’d drop in on the grandmother of a seafood salesman in her care home. One 73-year-old retiree says that after a year of fruitlessly trying to get a refund for a Covid-cancelled flight to America, she turned to Amess for help and got her money back in two days. The “ebullient” 69-year-old, born and raised in working-class east London, would never miss the charity carol concert put on by a local Bach choir each December. “He was always five minutes late, though,” says Jennifer Stonestreet, 70, “because he’d stopped to talk to someone on the way.”

Amess is one of six serving MPs who’ve been murdered in my lifetime, says Matthew Syed in the same newspaper. We far too rarely acknowledge the “quiet courage” with which our politicians operate. Amess had firm views, but was infallibly courteous: as former Speaker John Bercow says, “he was scrupulous about playing the ball rather than the man or woman”. Courtesy might seem quaint in a world of slowly declining civility – a world where the deputy leader of the Labour party can call her Tory opponents “scum”. But courtesy “is the mortar of civilisation”. Western society was formed not by military prowess, but by the sharing and synthesis of opinions between opposing factions. “Amess, I think, understood this in his bones.”