Sir David Amess: Batley’s message of love to Southend – Kim Leadbeater

I WAS on a visit to a local school for children with severe disabilities on Friday afternoon when a member of my staff called to tell me that Sir David Amess MP had been stabbed and killed in his constituency in Essex.

Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Home Secretary Priti Patel carry flowers as they arrive at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess died after he was stabbed several times at a constituency surgery on Friday.
Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Home Secretary Priti Patel carry flowers as they arrive at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess died after he was stabbed several times at a constituency surgery on Friday.

I didn’t know David personally, but we were both engaged in what he and I considered the most important part of the job – engaging with people in the community we were elected to represent.

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Kim Leadbeater is the MP for Batley and Spen. Her sister Jo Cox was representing the area when murdered in June 2016 in chilling parallels with the death last week of veteran Tory MP Sir David Amess.

It really doesn’t matter that my politics and David’s were very different. We were out and about listening to people’s concerns and doing our best to help them.

We get to have the letters MP after our names only because people have put their trust in us. It’s not just a duty to repay that trust by being there for them, it is an honour to do so.

Jo Cox, the then Batley and Spen MP, was murdered by a far-right extremist in June 2016.

I went on with my visit, unable to talk about what had happened because it was not yet in the public domain, but with my mind in turmoil.

It has become something of a cliché when someone dies suddenly to say that your thoughts are with their family and friends, but mine really were. I know the unbelievably painful journey they will now embark on – and also that their pain will never leave them.

I could also not stop thinking about David’s staff and his constituents, his colleagues and those who may have witnessed the horrific attack. After what happened to my sister Jo Cox in 2016, I am acutely conscious that hundreds of people’s lives will never be the same again.

As always, West Yorkshire Police responded quickly, effectively and sensitively to make sure I was safe. For obvious reasons, it isn’t sensible for me to discuss the measures we take each and every day to protect my security, and the safety of my staff, but I do want to put on record how good the level of support I have had from the police protection teams has been.

A woman lays flowers at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess died after he was stabbed several times at a constituency surgery on Friday.

It has been a very distressing few days for many people – first and foremost those close to David Amess of course, but also for lots of people in and around politics, and, here in Yorkshire, many local people, for whom his murder has triggered painful memories of Jo’s killing.

People have been in touch with me who have found it very hard to deal with their memories of that horrific day and had hoped never again to have to confront such a traumatic event. As a family, we have had our own very emotional few days too of course.

For me the initial shock and trauma of Friday is gradually being replaced by a sense of disbelief and dismay, and some anger, that another serving politician has lost their life and I have been reflecting on what needs to happen now.

I remember in the days after Jo was killed the intense feeling that no other family should have to go through what we were going through – and now they are. I also remember lots of talk about doing politics differently, with more kindness and compassion. And yet we have seen little change; if anything, at times it has been worse.

The messages and emails I have received over the weekend have been heart-warming and overwhelmingly supportive. Most people understand instinctively how difficult it is, not just for me but for anybody in public life.

We don’t want to cut ourselves off, but we’re human beings too and we have to think of those closest to us who shouldn’t have to spend their time fearful for our safety. I want to be accessible to my constituents – to meet people and to hear what they have to say – but I can do this only if I feel safe. And I have a duty to protect my staff too.

I have held lots of meetings since I was elected – out in the constituency and at my office, I have been to a wide variety of public events, and to the homes of constituents, and I desperately want to continue with this.

But I hope people understand that in light of Friday’s tragic attack, I will be putting safety at the forefront of all arrangements going forward. The answers are not simple but we have to find a way to protect both our democracy and those who work within it.

There is a bigger debate to be had about how we can do politics differently and work to remove the hatred and anger that can form the breeding ground for violence, and I’m sure we will be continuing that debate in the days and weeks to come, but for today I want to say thank you to everybody for their understanding and support.

And to the people of Southend, to David’s family, friends and colleagues, to say we here in Batley and Spen are thinking of you and offering our love, compassion and solidarity at this incredibly difficult time.

Kim Leadbeater is Labour MP for Batley and Spen.

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