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15 October 2021

Sir David Amess: MP whose dream was for Southend to become a city

15 October 2021

If you ask anyone in Parliament what they think of first about Sir David Amess it is a fair to say the words Southend and city will be involved.

The Conservative MP has served as an MP for 38 years, initially in Basildon from 1983 before he took on his role representing Southend West from 1997.

Sir David regards his main interests and areas of expertise as “animal welfare and pro-life” issues.

But his campaigning efforts in the House of Commons in recent years are most closely associated with the Essex coastal town.

Conservative MP Sir David Amess with his pugs, Lily and Boat, at the Westminster Dog of the Year competition. Sir David has reportedly been stabbed at a surgery in his Southend West constituency (PA Wire)

Sir David has not been shy in ensuring questions he asks Government ministers also include his long-running campaign to make Southend a city.

In December 2019, he secured an adjournment debate in the Commons specifically on the campaign and he told MPs: “I am not messing around.

“We have got it from the Prime Minister that Southend is going to become a city – and it will become a city.”

Southend in Essex is always close to the heart of Sir David Amess (PA Wire)

Community spirit, the proposed marina and the airport were among his arguments, which have continued in subsequent months.

As a strident supporter of the British monarchy, Sir David saw another opportunity in November 2020 as the Commons considered plans for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.

He asked for a new statue of the Queen and for a city status competition to ensure Southend is finally elevated.

In March 2021, Sir David repeated his statue calls – insisting the Queen deserved one for being a “great” monarch.

His campaign for a memorial to Dame Vera Lynn on the White Cliffs of Dover also won support from a minister in May this year.

Away from his campaigning, Sir David announced in December 2019 that he would run to be one of the three deputy speakers in the House of Commons.

He ultimately missed out and continued with his support for Brexit.

On December 30 last year, he posted a photo of a carboard cut-out of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

He wrote: “Whilst Margaret didn’t live long enough to see this day, I am sure that she is rejoicing in heaven. At last we ‘got Brexit done’!”

Aside from Southend’s city status, one incident has also become associated with Sir David – much to his frustration.

During a Commons debate in July 2017, Sir David said it was an “absolute disgrace” that people continue to mock him for being duped by Brass Eye about a fake drug.

He labelled the tone of that year’s general election campaign “jolly disappointing”, explaining some on social media “take the mickey” out of him because of Cake – a creation of the satirical Channel 4 programme developed by comedian Chris Morris.

Sir David said youngsters and Channel 4 should feel “shame” for their actions as the 1997 episode followed the death of his then-constituent Leah Betts from an ecstasy overdose.

Addressing a short debate on the future of Southend Hospital in 2017, Sir David spoke of the “rudeness” he experienced during the election campaign.

He said: “The things that people now say, young, middle-age or old, to we the politicians who take the blame for decisions of bureaucrats and others who are paid twice as much as we are, frankly, but the way they can use the word F, C and all the rest of it disgusts me.

“So if you go on to the social media, you’ll see the mickey is taken out of me because of Cake.”

In the Brass Eye episode, Sir David was shown condemning Cake.

He described it as a “big yellow death bullet in the head of some poor user – or custard gannet as the dealers call them”.

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