Political leaders from all political stripes gathered Saturday to pay respect to a long-serving British lawmaker, who was stabbed in the stomach in what police called a terrorist attack.
Boris Johnson, Conservative Prime Minister, was met by Keir Starmer (main opposition Labour Party) and Lindsay Hoyle (non-partisan speaker of House of Commons), at the church where David Amess had been repeatedly stabbed while he was meeting constituents. The attack on David Amess was committed by a 25-year-old British citizen.
Individually, the politicians went to Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea to pay respects to the Conservative lawmaker. He had been a member since 1983. After placing flowers, the politicians returned to their cars, being escorted back by a convoy of police officers.
The Metropolitan Police released a statement Saturday morning describing the attack as terrorist and saying that early investigations had revealed “a potential motivation linked with Islamist extremism.” However, it did not give any further details.
According to the police force, officers searched two locations in London as part of the investigation.
The suspect was being held under suspicion of murder, but authorities have not yet identified him. Although police stated that they believe the suspect was acting alone, they are not looking for anyone else in connection to the murder, investigations continue.
Amess, aged 69, was attacked at midday on Friday. Paramedics attempted to save him but failed. The suspect was arrested by police and a knife was found.
Popular lawmaker Amess did not serve as a minister in the government during his long career. Although he was a social conservative on abortion and capital punishment, Amess had a reputation for being a fixer at Parliament and being able to create alliances across political lines.
He died doing the thing he loved most — helping Southend West residents. British parliament has direct links to its constituents. They often host open meetings or “surgeries” on Fridays to hear their concerns.
These meetings are usually held in community halls or churches, and are frequently advertised. Amess posted online the location where he would host his surgery on Friday.
Constituents may raise a variety of topics, from national issues like the government’s handling the coronavirus pandemic to mundane matters like speed bumps for busy roads or disputes over the location of a neighbor’s fence.
Although members of Parliament may not have the power or ability to solve the problems presented to them by the government, they can make use of their position and access to officials at the local and national levels to push for change.
After paying tribute to Amess at his church, British Home Secretary Priti Paltel stated that “he was killed doing something he loved, serving his constituents as an elected democracy member”.
Patel stated that she met with the House speaker, the police and the U.K security services to ensure that security measures are in place for MPs so they can continue their duties as elected democratic members.
Five years ago, Jo Cox was killed by a far right extremist in her small-town district. Amess’ murder came five years after Jo Cox was also murdered. Friday’s murder has raised concerns about the dangers politicians face in their role representing voters. British politicians are generally not provided with police protection when they meet their constituents.
Tobias Ellwood is a prominent Conservative lawmaker and gave first aid to the officer who was stabbed at Parliament’s gates in 2017. He suggested that face-to-face meetings should be temporarily suspended while security reviews are completed.
Harriet Harman, a Labour veteran lawmaker, said that she would write to the prime minster to request his support for what is called a Speaker’s Conference in order to examine the safety of parliamentarians.
Harman stated that while we feel pain over this terrible loss, it is not enough to just say that nothing should change. Harman spoke on BBC radio. “I don’t believe anyone wants to be in a situation where police are screening individual constituents who visit us. But I’m sure there’s a safer way.
A Speaker’s Conference is where the speaker gathers together representatives from all political parties to make non-partisan recommendations. They only occur about once in ten years.
Harman stated that since Jo Cox’s tragic death, there have been changes in our home security and in security in Parliament. But we haven’t considered the question of how we do that important business in our constituency. He said that we should now.