Sir David Amess’ family have urged the public to get behind his long-running campaign for Southend to be given city status.
He was often seen in Westminster and on the campaign trail sporting “Make Southend a city” merchandise, including slogan-adorned baseball caps and face coverings.
David was working hard for Southend to gain city status -in his memory, please show your support for this campaign
In an emotional statement released through the Metropolitan Police on Sunday, the 69-year-old’s family implored people to support the city-status campaign “in his memory”.
They said: “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.
“Closer to home, David was working hard for Southend to gain city status. In his memory, please show your support for this campaign.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said bestowing the title of city on the seaside town would be a “wonderful tribute” to the MP’s 38 years of service, with Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also rallying behind the idea.
— Sir David Amess MP (@amessd_southend) September 10, 2021
Southend is one of several towns competing for city status as part of the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations in 2022, with Sir David a driving force behind the local campaign, having pushed for the recognition for at least two decades.
In an interview with BBC Essex the day before he died, Sir David said: “If the House of Commons wants to shut me up from being the city bore, then they are going to have to grant it to us.
“I’ve spent all my time mentioning it at every conceivable opportunity. It is a no brainer. The benefits are enormous frankly.”
Ms Patel would not be drawn on whether it would become a reality when quizzed about it on Sunday, but told the BBC there was “work in Government” going on, in what could prove a hint that Sir David’s ambition might be realised.
Asked on Times Radio if granting Southend city status would be the best tribute the nation could pay Sir David after his death, the Cabinet minister said: “People will decide about that.
“But clearly… I think one of the last Prime Minister’s questions that he put forward, he was speaking exactly about that – it would be a wonderful tribute to my dear friend David.”
Since Friday, a number of MPs and others have fondly recalled his energy for the cause, including the frequency with which he mentioned the campaign in Parliament.
Sir David even secured an adjournment debate on the subject in the Commons in December 2019.
After the most recent Cabinet reshuffle in September, Sir David joked to the House that he was left disappointed not to be made “minister with responsibility for granting city status to Southend”.
Labour’s Wes Streeting, a fellow Essex MP, told Sky News that he “could think of no more fitting tribute” to the late MP than the campaign to grant Southend city status to be at the “top of the agenda”.