On October 15, 2021, the Conservative parliament member (MP) Sir David Amess died after being stabbed repeatedly in a church in Leigh-on-Sea during a meeting with constituents in Essex. As of October 17, the police have arrested a 25-year-old man on suspicion of murder. First elected to parliament in 1983 to represent the Basildon constituency, Sir Amess has since served continuously in the House of Commons, making him one of the longest-serving lawmakers in the chamber. Sir Amess was knighted in 2015 for his political service. He supported Britain’s departure from the European Union, and his main areas of political campaign were animal welfare and pro-life issues.
This event marks the second public killing of an MP in just over five years, following the death of Labour party MP Jo Cox in 2016, after she was shot and stabbed by a far-right terrorist at an open meeting. Further back, 2010 saw the stabbing of another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, at a public forum by a student radicalized by online videos. In 2000, Andrew Pennington, an assistant to the Lib Dem MP Nigel Jones, was stabbed to death as he tried to protect Jones from an attacker who stormed his constituency office armed with a sword. Such attacks have left people questioning how to ensure safety while maintaining engagement between the public and elected officials.
Across the political spectrum, fear and anxiety are on the rise amongst MPs, with Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood even calling for a “temporary pause in face-to-face meetings.” This is not trivial; Britain’s parliamentary system relies on direct links between politicians and the people of their electoral districts. Open meetings are held regularly to allow voters to voice their opinions directly to their lawmakers on everything from international affairs to local requests and personal concerns. Home Secretary Priti Patel continues to stress that this is not the end of face-to-face meetings between constituents and their MPs, saying: “We live in an open society, a democracy, where we [MPs] are accessible to the people and that is right and proper.” Nevertheless, Amess’ death has renewed calls to increase the safety of public servants, and focused attention on the risks posed by holding political power.