Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told MPs that Southend-on-Sea will be given city status – a long-running campaign of Sir David Amess – as he led tributes to the murdered MP.
Mr Johnson described Sir David as a “steadfast servant” of the House of Commons, a “prodigious campaigner” for his chosen causes, and a “dear friend and colleague”.
The 69-year-old was “one of the nicest, kindest, and most gentle individuals ever to grace” the Commons benches, the prime minister added as he opened MPs’ tributes to the late Southend West MP on Monday.
“Sir David was taken from us in a contemptible act of violence, striking at the core of what it is to be a member of this House,” Mr Johnson said.
The prime minister also remembered the MP’s enduring efforts to secure city status for his constituency, which were a frequent feature of his interventions in the Commons.
“He never once witnessed any achievement by any resident of Southend that could not, somehow, be cited in his bid to secure city status for that distinguished town,” Mr Johnson said.
“Highlights of that bulging folder included a world record for most triangles being played at once; a group of stilt-walkers travelling non-stop from the Essex coast to Downing Street; and a visiting foreign dignitary allegedly flouting protocol by saying he liked Southend more than Cleethorpes.
“A compelling case and, as it is only a short time since Sir David last put that case to me in this chamber, I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves.”
Sir David “was not a man in awe of this chamber, nor a man who sought patronage or advancement”, but “simply wanted to serve the people of Essex”, the prime minister said.
He added: “This country needs people like Sir David, this House needs people like Sir David, our politics needs people like Sir David.
“Dedicated, passionate, firm in his beliefs but never anything less than respectful for those who thought differently.”
Sir David was stabbed to death on Friday as he held a constituency surgery – where MPs’ offer face-to-face meetings with constituents – at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
A 25-year-old man, who Sky News understands is Ali Harbi Ali, was arrested at the scene of the attack on suspicion of murder.
Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson vowed that “we will never allow those who commit acts of evil to triumph over the democracy and the parliament that Sir David Amess loved so much”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer echoed the prime minister’s words as he urged MPs to ensure that “the hatred that took Sir David’s life will never win”.
“Even as a political opponent he was a man and a politician we could all learn much from,” Sir Keir said.
“I use that phrase – ‘political opponent’ – very deliberately. Because David held his beliefs passionately but gently.
“I believe that not only can we learn from that but that we have a duty to do so. Civility in politics matters.”
Labour MP Stephen Timms, who himself was stabbed at a constituency surgery in 2010, said of Sir David’s killing that the Commons would “rightly reflect on what more we can do to stop that happening again”.
“I wonder if we might ask the police to review our appointment lists ahead of each surgery, for example,” he said.
“But we mustn’t give up on the accessibility of MPs. If we do, the sponsors of those who attacked David and who attacked me will have succeeded. That must not happen.”
Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox and who now sits in the House of Commons herself, said: “Today is about David and his family, along with his staff, colleagues and community he served so well, the service he gave and the support we should show all of them in the coming days, weeks and months.
“It is up to us to make sure that we do because I know more than most that they will need it and the powerful difference that it will make to them.”
Two of the most emotional tributes to Sir David came from his parliamentary neighbours and Conservative colleagues; Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois, and Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge.
Mr Francois described Sir David as his “best and oldest friend in politics” and, as his voice cracked with emotion, as “quite simply the best bloke I ever knew”.
He also proposed “David’s law” to crackdown on abuse of politicians on social media, especially from anonymous users.
Mr Francois told MPs that Sir David “was appalled by what he called the vile misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me very recently that he wanted something done about it”.
Mr Duddridge described to MPs a story of how Sir David, a Catholic, once accidentally had a boiled sweet blessed by the Pope.
He also thanked the prime minister for announcing that Southend will be made a city, saying “it means a lot to everybody, it really does”.
Prior to the tributes from MPs, a minute’s silence was held in honour of Sir David in both the Commons and House of Lords.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle described the circumstances of the MP’s death as “despicable”.
And he added they “raise the most fundamental issues about how members of this House are able to perform their vital democratic responsibilities safely and securely”.
“I give the House my undertaking I will do everything in my power to ensure that these issues are treated with urgency and with the sense of priority that they deserve,” Sir Lindsay told MPs.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said that a review of MPs’ security, in the wake of Sir David’s killing, would be concluded “over the next few days”.
On Monday evening, Mr Johnson and Sir Keir led a procession of MPs from the Commons to St Margaret’s Church, beside Westminster Abbey, for a service of remembrance for Sir David.
It was due to include a reading by Sir Lindsay and an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.