Labour and the Liberal Democrats will not stand candidates in the upcoming Southend West by-election after the killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess by a suspected terrorist as the veteran politician met with his Essex constituents, it is understood.
Sir David died after he was allegedly stabbed multiple times in Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea yesterday afternoon by a British national thought to be of Somali heritage. Police are treating the incident as an act of terror and Scotland Yard said in a statement overnight that its initial inquiries ‘revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism’.
Labour is set to follow the principle established after Jo Cox’s murder in 2016, when the major parties declined to select candidates in the subsequent Batley and Spen by-election. As a result, it is understood Labour will not contest the by-election to find a successor to Sir David. The Liberal Democrats have also confirmed they will not fight for the seat when a date is set.
Party sources told the Mail on Sunday’s Dan Hodges that Labour will not be fielding candidates in the by-election in Sir David’s constituency. One senior Labour figure told Sky News’ Jon Craig that Opposition parties should give Tories ‘a free run’ in the ballot.
Lord Pendry, a Labour former minister, called for all major opposition parties to stand aside in the by-election out of respect for Sir David. He said: ‘This is an occasion when you see the leader of the Opposition (Sir Keir Starmer) and the Prime Minister together, and it shows that our democracy transcends all that sort of thing.
‘I think we should be saying that whoever the Conservatives put up, it is their seat because they were deprived of it, so they should have it back. I think all the major parties should stand aside in the interest of democracy and our own democratic way of life.’
Southend West has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1950, with Sir David elected on an increased majority of more than 14,400 votes at the 2019 General Election.
It comes as the Home Secretary said security measures will be put in place to ensure MPs can continue to meet constituents safely following the killing of Sir David, a devout Catholic and prominent supporter of Brexit who was first elected to Parliament in 1983.
Boris Johnson accompanied by Sir Keir Starmer as they pay their respects to the Conservative MP Sir David Amess after he was stabbed to death at Belfairs Methodist Church, in Leigh-on-Sea
The Met Police confirmed that the killing of Southend West Sir David Amess (pictured) is being treated as a terror incident ‘with links to Islamist extremism’ as a British man with Somali heritage remains in police custody on suspicion of murder
People during a candlelight vigil at Belfairs Recreation Ground near to Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea
Labour sources have told the Mail on Sunday’s Dan Hodges that the party will not be fielding candidates in the by-election in Sir David’s constituency. One senior Labour figure told Sky News’ Jon Craig that Opposition parties should give Tories ‘a free run’ in the ballot
‘We cannot be cowed’: Priti Patel issues defiant message as MPs vow to carry on holding surgeries after David Amess murder as Boris and Starmer lay wreaths together
Home Secretary Priti Patel today issued a defiant message as Members of Parliament vowed to carry on holding face-to-face public meetings following Sir David Amess’ killing.
Tobias Ellwood urged MPs to end surgeries but Speaker Lindsay Hoyle held his last night amid widespread debate over MPs’ security and how to better protect parliamentarians.
Robert Largan, the Conservative MP for High Peak in Derbyshire, said he would still hold his surgery from 10.30am this morning while a number of other councillors took to social media to express their defiance.
Meanwhile, Labour MP Harriet Harman, who was sworn in to the House of Commons on the same day as Sir David in the 1980s, said she would be writing to the Prime Minister to ask for a Speaker’s Conference to find a solution.
Asked whether there could be a balance between the safety of MPs and the democratic process, Ms Patel today said: ‘It can be balanced, it can absolutely be balanced.’
Tobias Ellwood, a former Tory defence minister, called for face-to-face meetings to be suspended pending a security review after long-serving MP Sir David was fatally stabbed on Friday.
But Priti Patel said it is possible to strike a balance between the safety of MPs and carrying out the democratic process in-person, as she urged elected representatives not to be ‘cowed’ by those threatening to ‘stop us from functioning’.
A number of MPs posted on social media about their constituency events on Saturday as they showed support for the Home Secretary’s message that political work must be able to continue in the open.
Ms Patel, who laid flowers at the site of Sir David’s killing alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on Saturday morning, told broadcasters: ‘We are open to surgeries, doing our job. We will continue to do that.
‘That is why there are measures under way right now – I convened meetings yesterday, I’ve been with the Speaker of the House, and with the police and our security services to make sure that all measures are being put in place for the security of MPs so that they can carry on with their duties as elected democratic members.’
Her comments come after Mr Ellwood said physical meetings with voters should be paused while MPs await the result of the Home Secretary’s call for police forces to review security arrangements.
Local police forces are contacting every MP to discuss their personal safety and the security of any events they plan to attend.
The chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, who was hailed as a hero for his attempts to save the life of PC Keith Palmer during the Westminster terror attack, tweeted that there was ‘huge anxiety among MPs now’.
‘Until the Home Secretary’s review of MP security is complete I would recommend a temporary pause in face-to-face meetings,’ he said.
But former Cabinet minister David Davis said suspending public meetings with MPs would be ‘a terrible reflection of what David stood for’.
He told Sky News: ‘Sure, we should be cautious, maybe we should do things to ensure the people who come to see us are bona fide, but I think actually pausing it would be a bad idea.
‘It would be a terrible reflection of what David stood for – David himself was the ultimate constituency MP.’
Meanwhile, the longest continuously serving female MP, Harriet Harman, said she would be writing to the Prime Minister urging him to back a Speaker’s Conference to look into what needs to change to ensure parliamentarians are safe in their constituencies.
Speaking to the BBC, the veteran Labour politician said: ‘We cannot have the death of an MP being a price worth paying for our democracy.’
She added: ‘I don’t think anybody wants to go to a situation where the police are vetting individual constituents who come and see us, but I’m sure there is a safer way to go about our business.
‘Since Jo Cox’s tragic killing, we’ve had changes in our home security, we’ve had changes in security in Parliament, but we haven’t looked at the issue of how we go about that important business in our constituency, but do it in a safe way – and I think we must do that now.’
Conservative MP Kevin Foster, who represents Torbay, said it is ‘not practical’ to have airport-style security at MPs’ surgeries.
Home Secretary Priti Patel silently pays her respects to veteran MP Sir David Amess in Essex on Saturday morning
A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago
Police officers remove floral tributes to British MP David Amess, who was stabbed to death during a meeting with constituents
Make Southend a city: Calls for Essex resort’s status to be upgraded in honour of murdered MP David Amess after his decades-long campaign
MPs are calling for Southend-on-Sea to be given city status in honour of a 21-year campaign by Conservative MP Sir David Amess, who was killed in a suspected terror attack on Friday.
Since the year 2000, Sir David had relentlessly pushed for the Essex resort to be upgraded – most recently arguing that it would help attract some much-needed investment post-Brexit and Covid.
Now following his tragic death, colleagues from both sides of the aisle are demanding his wish be granted, arguing it would be a ‘fitting memorial’ for the 69 year old.
It comes as The Queen is set to designate new cities in celebration of her Platinum Jubilee next year, and local authorities have been putting forward their towns for city status since June.
Conservative MP for Kingswood Chris Skidmore said: ‘David would badger me constantly about making Southend a city.
‘Not only did we exchange many letters, had meetings, every time I saw him in the tea room or passed him in the corridor he would shout out ‘don’t forget to make Southend a City’. No opportunity was ever missed.
‘He told me once that it was his one great ambition left in Parliament that he would one day see Southend become a city.
‘It became a running joke every time he raised it, but he was passionately serious about making it happen.’
Defence minister James Heappey, the Conservative MP for Wells, echoed that sentiment, telling PA news agency: ‘Tweaks to security might be necessary but nothing can fundamentally change: those surgeries are foundations on which service as MP is delivered.’
Tory Harrow East MP Bob Blackman said he and his colleagues will now be ‘wary’ of what they do following Sir David’s death, but former universities minister Chris Skidmore – who represents Kingswood constituency – said it still felt ‘absolutely natural that I would continue to hold in-person events’.
That sentiment was mirrored on the Labour benches, with Hull East MP Karl Turner arguing against vetting who elected representatives see and that politicians had to accept there is a risk involved with their work.
‘I think you can do as much as you can possibly do but if a knife-wielding maniac bursts into your room, what can you do about that really?’ he told PA.
‘I think you’ve got to take the risk.
‘I’m not pretending to be any kind of a hero, far from it, but I think it is a pretty bad deal if you can’t see your MP.’
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said she would support meeting constituents behind a screen to prevent possible stab attacks, but she too rallied against ‘airport-style screening’.
‘I would prefer going forward to meet constituents behind a screen, as we have now for Covid and so on – that might be quite complicated to arrange but at least you know someone’s not going to just lean over the desk and stab you, which could happen now,’ she told the BBC.
The Metropolitan Police arrested a 25-year-old who had reportedly lived in Sir David’s constituency after his family fled the war-torn East African country in the 1990s, as soon as police arrived on the scene.
Counter-terrorism officers today raided two properties in London amid an investigation.
It is now claimed that someone whose identity matches the suspect’s had been previously referred to Prevent, the Government’s counter-extremism programme, according to the Telegraph and the Guardian. The scheme was launched in 2007 in an attempt to stop people supporting terrorism or becoming terrorists themselves in the UK and overseas.
The referral is not thought to have been recent. A Metropolitan Police spokesman declined to comment when approached by MailOnline.
Hundreds of well-wishers including the 69-year-old MP’s constituents, Muslim leaders from Southend’s mosques, Mr Johnson, Sir Keir and MPs across the political spectrum have joined in an outpouring of grief following the death of Sir David.
As Sir David’s wife and children grieve privately at home, the MP’s extended family including cousins and second cousins left a note celebrating ‘a great man and member of our family’.
Outside the scene of the attack, constituents recalled the work the ‘absolutely wonderful’ MP did in his community during his almost 40-year career. Moira and Pat, cousins of Sir David, wrote: ‘Thinking of your lovely family. Can’t believe this has actually happened. Will always love you.’
Meanwhile, two vigils have been held. 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.
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 key events, including 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.