Sir David Amess, the MP for Southend West, has been stabbed to death while holding a surgery in his constituency. Essex Police say that a 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder. The news will shock parliament and the country: it is a reminder of the risks that MPs run every time they hold a constituency surgery. In 2010, Stephen Timms was attacked with a kitchen knife at one; and five years ago, Jo Cox was murdered on her way to a constituency surgery in her seat of Batley and Spen.
In a statement, Essex Police said:
'A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a man was stabbed in Leigh-on-Sea. A 25-year-old man was quickly arrested after officers arrived at the scene on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered. He is currently in custody. We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident.'
I was on the phone to a long-serving MP when the news about Sir David came through. He was shocked but pointed out that MPs have become increasingly concerned about security in recent years, with an alarming number of them having received death threats. This MP said that he is now so worried about safety that he only sees people with an appointment so staff can check they are who they say they are before they arrive.
The British constituency system is based on a lot of contact between parliamentarians and their voters. This openness is a good thing but, as this morning’s awful events show, it also brings risks. Sir David was attacked in Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, where he had been meeting constituents.
A number of Sir David's fellow MPs have paid tribute to him. Labour MP Stephen Timms wrote: 'Appalled to hear of the attack on Sir David Amess today. I know him well and am thinking of him with very best wishes as we await further news'.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: 'Horrific and deeply shocking news. Thinking of David, his family and his staff.'
Former prime minister David Cameron tweeted: 'Very alarming and worrying news reports coming from Leigh-on-Sea. My thoughts and prayers are with Sir David Amess and his family.'
Tory MP David Morris said: 'Absolutely horrendous news, I am praying for Sir David.' The Jo Cox Foundation, which was set up after the murder of the Labour MP, released a statement saying: 'Horrified to hear the news of the attack on Sir David Amess MP. We are thinking of him, his family and loved ones at this distressing time.'
Judith Cannon, deputy chair of the local Conservative club and friend of Sir David, told Sky: ‘I just don't believe it, how anyone could harm a kind man like David, I don't know. I cannot understand how anyone could be so wicked to harm this man. We love him dearly. Nobody is perfect but he is as near perfect as it's possible to be. I am just praying. I would ask everybody watching to pray for him, we need him, the country needs him.’