Sir David Amess: Tragic killing follows string of death threats and abuse against MPs

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Conservative MP Sir David Amess has been described as the kindest and nicest man in politics (AFP/Parliament UK)
Conservative MP Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death on Friday, has been described as the kindest and nicest man in politics (AFP/Parliament UK)

The killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess is the latest of a number of attacks on MPs in their constituencies.

His death has sparked renewed calls for a review of MPs’ security amid concern about the level of hostility towards politicians in the country.

Although MPs and their staff have significant police protection while physically in Parliament, their constituency offices are often on high streets or in community centres and much less well protected.

In June 2016, the country was rocked when 41-year-old Labour MP for Batley and Spen Jo Cox was killed in her constituency by a far-right supporter.

Thomas Mair repeatedly shot and stabbed the mother-of-two as she headed into a constituency surgery. He shouted: “This is for Britain”, “keep Britain independent”, and “Britain first”, as he attacked her.

Kim Leadbeater, Cox's sister who is now the MP for the same constituency, said after the shocking attack on Sir David that she felt “frightened”.

Ms Leadbeater said: “Totally shocked by what has happened to think that something so horrific could happen again to another MP, to another family.

“And scared and frightened – a real rollercoaster of emotions."

 London, United Kingdom - June 17, 2016: Jo Cox's Vigil. A candlelit vigil was held in Parliament Square for the murdered MP, Jo Cox. People lit candles, left flowers, wrote messages and mourned.
Vigils were held across the country after Labour MP Jo Cox was killed by a constituent in 2016 (PA)

Despite Cox's tragic death, the past two years have seen multiple incidents involving MPs on the receiving end of physical and verbal abuse.

In 2019, Labour MP Jess Phillips was subjected to death threats, while the then Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said threats towards had been made towards her children.

The former MP Anna Soubry was targeted by pro-Brexit campaigner James Goddard, who hurled abuse at the remain-supporting politician as she entered and left Parliament, calling her a Nazi and a traitor. In November the same year, a man was jailed after sending Soubry a letter saying he would murder her like Jo Cox.

In May 2019, neo-Nazi activist Jack Renshaw was jailed for plotting to kill Labour MP Rosie Cooper. Labour's Lloyd Russell-Moyle was attacked in Brighton, again over Brexit,the same year.

More recently, Rosie Duffield said she had to steer clear of the Labour Party conference following threats of violence from trans rights activists online.

The constant tide of abuse and death threats was detailed by a former parliamentary assistant following the killing of Sir David.

Jade Botterill, who worked for Labour MP Yvette Cooper between 2013 and 2019, said dealing with abuse directed towards her boss had left her suffering frequent nightmares and forced her to quit politics.

Yvette Cooper MP pictured at a Centre for European Reform fringe event on Brexit, during the Labour Party annual conference at the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC), in Liverpool. Picture date: Tuesday September 25th, 2018. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/ EMPICS Entertainment.
Yvette Cooper. (EMPICS)

She said: “I would get in and all I would do is go on Facebook and report death threats and delete them. I reckon I reported over 1,000 death threats.

“I couldn’t sleep. I would have these nightmares that I would be in the office with Yvette and someone would come up to her and kill her.”

Other serious incidents include one in January 2000 when Nigel Jones, then MP for Cheltenham, was severely injured when he was attacked in his offices by a man with a sword.

Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councillor, was killed while trying to defend the then-MP.

He was posthumously awarded the George Medal for bravery.

The attacker, Robert Ashman, had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was deemed unfit to stand trial and was ordered to be detained indefinitely in a secure hospital.

Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones in his bed at Cheltenham General Hospital, where he is recovering from lacerations to his hands after a sword attack in his constituency surgery in Cheltenham on 28/01/00.   * A man will appear at Cheltenham magistrates court for the attempted murder of Mr Jones, and for the murder of his assistant Andrew Pennington in the same attack.   (Photo by Barry Batchelor - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones was the victim of a sword attack in his constituency surgery in Cheltenham in 2000 (Barry Batchelor - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Britain's Labour Party Member of Parliament Stephen Timms is seen arriving at 11 Downing Street in London in this June 8, 2009 file photograph. Timms, a former treasury minister in the previous labour government, has been stabbed, a party spokesman said on May 14, 2010. Police said a 21-year-old woman had been arrested in connection with the incident which took place at his constituency office in east London on Friday afternoon.   REUTERS/Stephen Hird/Files   (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
Labour MP Stephen Timms was stabbed at his constituency office in east London in 2010 (REUTERS/Stephen Hird/Files)

In May 2010, East Ham MP Stephen Timms was stabbed twice in the abdomen by Roshonara Choudhry, an Islamic extremist who claimed she had wanted “to get revenge for the people of Iraq”.

Timms suffered serious injuries and according to police was “extremely fortunate not to have been killed”. He remains an MP.

On Friday the Speaker of the House of Commons called for a review into MPs’ security in reaction to the death of Sir David.

Paying tribute to the Tory MP for Southend West as a “lovely man” who “built a reputation for kindness and generosity", Sir Lindsay Hoyle said discussions would take place on measures to better protect parliamentarians.

“I am shocked and deeply distressed by the killing of Sir David Amess,” he said.

“David was a lovely man, devoted to his family, to Parliament and his Southend West constituency. He was well-liked by Members and the staff alike, and during his almost four decades here, built a reputation for kindness and generosity.

“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country.

“In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Watch: David Amess - Tributes paid to MP who was 'true gent' and 'friend to everyone'

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