This appalling crime is another sickening affront to democracy that is made even more shocking by its chilling echoes with the murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox in June 2016.
Prophetically, one of his last contributions to the House Commons coincided with the fifth anniversary of her own tragic death when he joined colleagues in “remembering the murder of one of our own, Jo Cox”.
An ebullient character who was always in his element when speaking up for Southend and why it should be bestowed city status, his interests ranged from animal rights to fuel poverty and he was successful in changing the law on both.
But the father-of-five, whose unexpected victory at Basildon in 1992 symbolised John Major’s election win against the odds, was universally regarded as a kind man who sought to work with backbench colleagues across the political divide.
And while he, like every MP, was aware of the risks that face all public figures as they undertake their duties, Sir David believed that he would have been failing his constituents if he was not accessible to them because he regarded them all – regardless of their political affiliation – as his friends.
He had served for 38 years. As Chancellor Rishi Sunak posted as he, too, struggled to come to terms with this senseless tragedy: “The worst aspect of violence is its inhumanity. It steals joy from the world and can take from us that which we love the most. Today it took a father, a husband, and a respected colleague. All my thoughts and prayers are with Sir David’s loved ones.”
Understandably, this bereftness will be indicative of the solemn tributes that will be paid in Parliament next week – and just as they were after Mrs Cox’s murder when there was a vain hope that her ‘more in common’ vision would become her legacy and lead, in turn, to less toxicity in politics and public life.
Yet, inevitably, Sir David’s heartbreaking death will lead to soul-searching about the security of MPs, the threats that they and their staff continually face and how they can be better protected – and respected – as they resume face-to-face meetings following the Covid pandemic.
The reason that Britain has been a shining beacon of democracy is because Parliamentarians are accustomed to holding constituency surgeries and Sir David was no exception – people could email his office and arrange to meet him at Belfairs Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea, on the first and third Fridays of every month.
It was there, tragically, where Sir David died in the service of his constituents in another harrowing reminder about the risks that all MPs face. It is also one that must not be forgotten as the police step up their inquiry, flags fly at half-mast over Government buildings and Parliament mourns “one of its own”.
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