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Backseat Crusader Sir David Amess who loved Strictly – but not Eurovision

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He was known by colleagues as the ‘Basildon man’ – and not just because he was a constituency MP through and through.

Sir David Amess first entered political folklore during the 1992 election when his famous Tory Essex seat was expected to fall to Neil Kinnock’s Labour, who many believed would surely oust the government of John Major.

But the moment Basildon flashed blue and Sir David’s infectious smile peered off the television screens, the Conservatives heaved a deep sigh of relief in the knowledge that the Welsh windbag’s dream of becoming Prime Minister was over.

For that reason alone, this genius father of five will always hold a precious place in Tory’s hearts.

But for parliamentary colleagues there was so much more to him than that, personal qualities that made him a hugely popular figure across the political divide.

Sir David Amess: A backseat crusader known by colleagues as ‘Basildon man’ – and not just because he was a constituency through and through

He was a kind, genius soul, always quick to laugh in the House of Commons. Seeing this deceptively charismatic figure on his feet in the room, it was next to impossible not to glare at him.

Rarely, if ever, when called by the Speaker, his polite question was not about his beloved Southend. A long and beloved campaign to turn the seaside town of Essex into a city has sadly gone unfulfilled.

Even Sir David’s Early Day Motions could spark a laugh in the tea room of the House of Commons.

One praised Ann Widdecombe and Anton du Beke for their “achievement in bringing a smile to the nation’s faces with their performances” following their departure from Strictly Come Dancing in 2010.

Another congratulated Dame Helen Mirren – who went to school in his Southend West constituency – on her Oscar win in 2007.

The Eurovision Song Contest, on the other hand, brought out the Brexiteer in him. It was, he claimed, an event “meant to humiliate the UK”.

But overall, the glitz and glamor of the showbiz world seemed to charm him.

David Amess and wife Julia, with their fourth child, daughter Alexandra

David Amess and wife Julia, with their fourth child, daughter Alexandra

And why wouldn’t it?

His daughter Katie is a former Miss Essex who later became a Bafta-nominated actress and appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as a Harry Potter movie and Captain America: Civil War.

Born in Plaistow (then in Essex, now East London) and raised a Roman Catholic, Sir David was educated at St Bonaventure’s grammar school in Forest Gate and then Bournemouth College of Technology where he obtained a degree in economics and government .

His first job was working as a primary school teacher in London’s East End, where he taught for a year at St John the Baptist Primary School in Bethnal Green from 1970-71.

He then worked briefly as an underwriter before becoming a recruiting consultant.

In 1983, he was a Tory MP and entered the House of Commons, in part as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s wildly popular policy of letting council tenants buy their homes, a move that greatly appealed to the residents of Basildon.

He married his wife Julia in the same year and they had five children – a son and four daughters.

His friend and fellow MP Jerry Hayes, who entered parliament the same year as the Conservative member from neighboring Harlow constituency, says Sir David has never seriously sought a senior government post.

“He always believed that his true calling was to represent his constituents in Essex, something he did for 38 years with diligence, skill and good humor,” he says.

“David loved to hit the road, stomp the streets of his constituency and stand up for those who needed his help and advice.

Marriage Joy: from left to right, wife Julia, Sir David and his daughters Alexandra, Flo, Kate and Sarah

Marriage Joy: from left to right, wife Julia, Sir David and his daughters Alexandra, Flo, Kate and Sarah

“Not for him the bulletproof limousine and a battalion of special advisers. His political outlook was that of a somewhat old-fashioned parliamentarian. He stood up for the common man and woman in his constituency, and of course for animals, which he passionately cared for.

“I’m sorry to say that it was this selfless determination that put his life in danger and cost him his life yesterday.”

During his nearly four-decade stint in parliament, Sir David was briefly a ministerial assistant, but he held a number of key behind-the-scenes roles and was knighted in 2015 for political and public service.

Politically, Sir David was a staunch right-winger who had been Eurosceptic for years before the referendum was held.

It is true that some of his beliefs can be considered very old-fashioned today.

Sir David's friend and fellow MP Jerry Hayes said: 'He stood up for the common man and woman in his constituency, and of course for animals, which he cared passionately about'

Sir David’s friend and fellow MP Jerry Hayes said: ‘He stood up for the common man and woman in his constituency, and of course for animals, which he cared passionately about’

The 69-year-old was an opponent of same-sex marriage and, as a devout Mass Catholic, strongly anti-abortion.

But because he was an outcast, he also took some less traditional conservative positions, as one of the few Tories campaigning against fox hunting. These may have been controversial views, but they never seemed to diminish his popularity throughout Westminster.

As a sign of the affection with which he was held among MPs, Corbynite Paula Sherriff, who was deposed in the 2019 election, burst into tears on radio yesterday after news of Sir David’s death.

“I loved him,” Miss Sherriff told Shelagh Fogarty on LBC. “David was a wonderful, wonderful man – I lost a friend today.”

The Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, also paid tribute to Sir David as ‘a wonderful man’ who was funny and kind and ‘cared for the most disadvantaged in our communities’ and ’embodies Essex’.

The fun side of his character often shone through. On December 30 last year, he posted a photo of a cardboard cutout of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Twitter.

He wrote: ‘Although Margaret didn’t live long enough to see this day, I’m sure she rejoices in heaven. Finally we have “done Brexit”!’

Assassinated Conservative Party MP Sir David Amess with Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Assassinated Conservative Party MP Sir David Amess with Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The Iron Lady made another surprise appearance this summer when Sir David brought the cut-out to his daughter Alexandra’s wedding.

An episode he preferred to forget took place in 1997. He was tricked into condemning a made-up drug called ‘Cake’ in the satirical TV show Brass Eye, developed by comedian Chris Morris.

Last night City Councilor James Courtenay paid tribute to his late local MP, saying he was “a hardcore constituency MP who decided many years ago that he was not looking for career opportunities in Westminster”.

Operations were “his passion” and a two-hour session could often run up to four or five hours, Mr Courtenay added.

As it should be, Sir David was supposed to attend a dinner for the local Conservative Association at Saxon Hall, Rochford last night, where he was to give a speech.

It was a speech he tragically never got to deliver.

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