Police have raided the ‘childhood home’ of terror suspect Ali Harbi Ali as part of their probe into the killing of Tory MP Sir David Amess, neighbours have today revealed.
Police searched the home in a quiet street in Croydon, south London, on Friday. A neighbour today told MailOnline how Ali, a 25-year-old British Muslim who is alleged to have murdered the stalwart MP in Lee-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday, grew up in the terrace property before leaving in his late teens.
The neighbour also claimed Ali had once told him how he worked for the NHS. Speaking to MailOnline, he said: ‘This is the house he grew up in. He went to school around here and moved out when he was about 16 or 17-years-old.
‘He worked for the health service – he told me so – but in what capacity I don’t know. I think one of his sisters also works for the NHS. They are a lovely family, it’s such a shock that Ali has been arrested for such a terrible thing.
‘His mum and sisters helped my wife and I during lockdown, they went and got my shopping when I needed it and my medication. They’d do anything to help us.
‘That’s why I can’t understand it all. I last saw Ali around Christmas time last year and he was friendly, asked me how I was. He was a tall lad with quite bushy hair.
‘I saw one of his sisters talking to the police on Friday afternoon and I haven’t seen the family since. There were three police cars and some unmarked vehicles.’
Another local resident added: ‘The police were searching the house and the garage. I don’t know if they found anything of note.
‘The family have been here for more than 20-years and are very quiet but really nice, friendly people. The children didn’t play out much, they always tended to be inside studying.’
It comes as security sources told The Mail on Sunday how the killer of Sir David had planned the murderous assault more than a week in advance.
Sources revealed that the attacker had booked an appointment at Sir David’s constituency surgery before stabbing the politician 17 times.
Suspect Ali is the son of a former communications adviser to the prime minister of Somalia. Harbi Ali Kullane, confirmed that his son was in police custody following the stabbing and said he was ‘traumatised’ by the arrest.
Ali, who is thought to have been targeted by the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme, may have lived in Sir David’s Southend West constituency in Essex in the past.
His most recent residence is believed to be in London. Officers have been carrying out searches at three addresses.
Police searched the home in a quiet street in Croydon, south London, on Friday. A neighbour today told MailOnline how Ali, 25, who is alleged to have murdered the Conservative MP during a constituency surgery in Lee-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday, grew up in the property before leaving in his late teens
Members of a police search team enter the home of suspect Ali Harbi Ali in Kentish Town today as the investigation into the killing of MP Sir David Amess continues
As police continued to question a 25-year-old British man of Somalian descent last night, sources revealed that the attacker had booked an appointment at Sir David’s constituency surgery before stabbing the politician 17 times. Pictured: Police outside the home of the suspect in Kentish Town
Priti Patel Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle paid their respects to Sir David (pictured above), less than 24 hours after he was fatally stabbed during a constituency surgery
Police officers attend following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess as he met with constituents at a constituency surgery on October 15t, in Leigh-on-Sea
The Prime Minister lays a wreath of flowers at the foot of a tree in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex and Sir Keir Starmer stands behind him
Andrew Richard Rosindell, Conservative MP for the Romford, at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess died
Floral tributes have stacked up at the scene of the stabbing at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea following the death of Sir David Amess
Well-wishers attend a candle-lit vigil in memory of the Conservative MP David Amess, who was fatally stabbed the previous day, in Leigh-on-Sea
Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer, Priti Patel and Sir Lyndsay Hoyle arrive to the scene of Sir David Amess’s killing in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex to pay tribute Saturday
Members of the public attend a vigil for Sir David on the field where an air ambulance landed as paramedics tried to save the MP for Southend West, after he was stabbed to death in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
Police officers stand nearby as crowds gather in darkness at Belfairs sports ground in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Saturday evening to honour the 69-year-old Tory MP, who was killed while meeting constituents yesterday
Speculation of Iran link to MP’s murder
Sir David Amess had been at an Iranian opposition rally, along with five other British MPs, in Paris in 2018.
A Tehran diplomat had plotted to bomb the event, where regime dissident Maryam Rajavi had been a key target, The Sun reports.
Diplomat Assadollah Assadi, 49, was jailed for 20 years for the plot which Belgian prosecutors said could have led to a ‘bloodbath’.
The Iranian opposition had welcomed Sir David’s attendance, having called for the country’s president to be barred from Glasgow’s COP26 summit.
A senior source said Sir David, who was Catholic, could have been a target due to his religion.
The security services are providing assistance to Scotland Yard, which is leading the investigation. Last night, detectives were granted a warrant of further detention, allowing them to keep Ali in custody until Friday.
Police officers were yesterday standing guard outside the North London council house where Ali lives. It is in a street of £2 million three-storey townhouses where the late actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, used to live.
Sir David, 69, who had been an MP since 1983, met the public every fortnight and advertised the details on his parliamentary website.
Shortly before his killing, one Minister told this newspaper that the Government feared a wave of fresh terror attacks as the country emerged from the Covid pandemic, due to an ‘epidemic’ of ‘bedroom radicals’ who spent lockdown hunched over computers plotting atrocities.
Ali – who had not been charged last night – is being questioned by police to establish whether he had links to radical Islamic groups. Whitehall insiders said Ali was not known to MI5, although he is thought to have been targeted by Prevent, the Government deradicalisation programme, some years ago.
His father told The Sunday Times: ‘I’m feeling very traumatised. It’s not something that I expected or ever dreamt of.’
It is understood that initial indications point to the attacker being a ‘lone wolf’ who had ‘self-radicalised’ ahead of the attack at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea at Friday lunchtime.
Sources believe that the suspect lived in London and travelled to Essex by train to carry out the attack. Ali was yesterday moved from Southend and taken for questioning to a specialised higher-security unit for terror suspects in London. A post mortem on Sir David has also been conducted.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said last night: ‘As part of the fast-paced investigation, officers have attended three addresses in the London area and conducted searches.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid flowers at the scene of the fatal stabbing yesterday along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
Witness: Attacker was ‘dead behind the eyes’
An emergency worker called to the scene of Sir David Amess’s death said the alleged attacker was ‘dead behind the eyes’.
The anonymous witness told The Sun: ‘What I saw was horrific. We knew immediately that David was dead. There was no way anyone was surviving that. It was such a savage attack. People were breaking down in tears because there was nothing anyone could do for him.
‘The suspect was already in handcuffs and was sitting on the floor. He was completely dead behind the eyes, staring blankly. And he didn’t say anything.’
Another witness said the alleged attacker did not book ahead to see Sir David but was ushered in from a side room by his assistant.
The source said it had been ‘ad-hoc’ but Sir David agreed to see him, adding: ‘That’s the sort of man he was. He would take bookings from people who just turned up. This person was in the room with his assistant and she saw everything. His calmness sitting by the body was unnerving.’
Conservative councillor Dan Nelson said the attacker was waiting for 40 minutes, also claiming it had not been booked ahead.
Reports say that the alleged assailant sat beside Sir David’s body following the attack, and made no effort to evade police.
A Southend Tory source told The Telegraph it was ‘absolutely chilling’.
The shocking attack, which came five years after the murder of MP Jo Cox, ignited fresh concerns over the protection of parliamentarians.
Sir Lindsay is preparing to launch a review of MPs’ security arrangements amid complaints about a postcode lottery for MPs, with some police forces offering more support than others during their regular constituency meeting. Sir Lindsay told Channel 4 News: ‘In the end, we have to ensure that democracy survives. These people don’t like our values. They want to stop us carrying out our duties. They cannot win and must not win.’
His review is expected to consider calls to provide a police guard for all MPs’ local surgeries as the ‘only solution’, along with airport-style security. But the move is likely to be resisted by some MPs.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, Sir Lindsay made what will be construed as a thinly veiled reference to Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner describing Tories as ‘scum’. He says: ‘The quality of political discourse has to change. The conversation has to be kinder and based on respect… The hate, which drives these attacks, has to end.’
As Westminster reverberated with shock yesterday:
- Sir David’s grieving family were comforting each other at the house of his wife Julia’s mother, four miles from the scene, where they were too upset to comment.
- A friend of Sir David’s personal assistant, Julia Cushion, who witnessed the attack, said: ‘She’s very, very upset. She’s a mess.’
- Former Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood called for face-to-face meetings to be put on hold pending a security review, but Ms Patel said a balance was needed and that MPs should not be ‘cowed’ by terrorists;
- Muslims from Southend’s mosques called the murder an ‘indefensible atrocity’;
- Somali leaders also condemned the ‘senseless murder which has shocked communities across the country’;
- A Labour source said the party will not be standing a candidate in the by-election for Sir David’s seat out of respect, and nor will the Lib Dems.
People during a candlelight vigil at Belfairs Recreation Ground near to Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea
People during a candlelight vigil at Belfairs Recreation Ground near to Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago
Blue balloons were handed out at a vigil in Southend on Saturday afternoon as constituents paid tribute
The National Police Chiefs’ Council is contacting all MPs about security, while Ms Patel said she had asked all forces to review safety arrangements for MPs immediately.
She will make a statement to Parliament tomorrow.
Some MPs struck a defiant tone as they held constituency surgeries as normal yesterday. Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke met voters in a Yorkshire supermarket, and said: ‘We cannot let events like this diminish the deep relationship between an MP and their constituents.’
Former Cabinet Minister David Davis said suspending public meetings with MPs would be ‘a terrible reflection of what David stood for’.
Tory MP Andrew Percy told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There’s only so much protection you can provide to an MP who lives locally, shops locally and uses other local facilities.’
Westminster united in grief: Senior politicians lay flowers for Sir David Amess after he was killed in a frenzied knife attack
By Scarlet Howes and Mark Hookham for the Mail on Sunday
Britain’s most senior politicians were united in grief yesterday as they laid flowers and paid tribute to Tory MP Sir David Amess after he was killed in a frenzied knife attack.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle left flowers at the church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Sir David was stabbed to death on Friday.
They joined an outpouring of emotion from Sir David’s heartbroken constituents who voiced their shock at the horrific loss of the hard-working and respected MP.
Sir David, 69, was holding a constituency surgery when an assailant stormed into the Belfairs Methodist Church shortly after midday and stabbed him 17 times. He died at the scene.
A 25-year-old man – named last night as Ali Harbi Ali – was arrested on suspicion of murder when police arrived five minutes later.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer, left, followed by Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Lindsey Hoyle, carry flowers as they arrive at the scene where Sir David Amess was killed
Home Secretary Priti Patel today issued a defiant message, saying the UK and its democracy ‘cannot be cowed’ – as Members of Parliament vowed to carry on holding face-to-face public meetings
Asked whether there could be a balance between the safety of MPs and the democratic process, Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured) today said: ‘It can be balanced, it can absolutely be balanced’
Horrified constituents waiting to see Sir David (pictured), who has campaigned to help refugees, watched in horror as he was attacked
Ms Patel yesterday issued a defiant message, saying the UK and its democracy ‘cannot be cowed’ – as Members of Parliament vowed to carry on holding face-to-face public meetings.
Police investigate whether David Amess was specifically targeted
Detectives are now investigating whether Sir David Amess had been specifically targeted.
Senior counter-terrorism officials were assessing whether the incident was linked to jihadist ideology due to developments in the investigation following the suspect’s arrest, The Guardian reports.
Specialist counter-terrorism lawyers have been discussing the investigation with the Met Police’s counter-terrorism command, who are leading the investigation.
Sir David, 69, who had been an MP since 1983, was meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday afternoon when he was stabbed multiple times in a frenzied attack.
The MP spoke to PR professional Richard Hillgrove to discuss the Children’s Parliament, an event where youngsters are matched with MPs, soon before the attack, the Sunday Times reported.
The newspaper reported Mr Hillgrove ended the Zoom call at 12.02pm, three minutes before the married father-of-five was stabbed
Speaking at Southend police station, Ms Patel said: ‘We’re all struggling to come to terms with the fact that David Amess has been so cruelly taken away from all of us. He was a man of the people, he was absolutely there for everyone, he was a much loved parliamentarian.
‘To me, he was a dear and loyal friend,’ she added, paying tribute to his wife, Julia, and their five children. Ms Patel said the security arrangements for MPs will ensure they can ‘carry on with their duties as elected democratic members’.
Earlier, the Home Secretary wiped away tears as she joined Mr Johnson, Sir Keir and Sir Lindsay in laying flowers around a tree next to the Methodist church. A note attached to Ms Patel’s wreath read: ‘You are in our thoughts and hearts. Rest in peace, dear David.’
Mr Johnson left a bouquet of white flowers with a note that read: ‘To the memory of Sir David Amess MP, a fine parliamentarian and a much loved colleague and friend.’
The appalling attack was witnessed by Sir David’s personal assistant Julie Cushion, 59, and his parliamentary case-worker Rebecca Hayton. Southend councillor John Lamb said: ‘The two women are traumatised. Julie was outside the office and heard a scream so she ran in and saw David on the floor. The scream was Rebecca.’
Ms Cushion’s friend Stephen Aylan, a former councillor, said: ‘She’s very, very upset. She’s a mess.’ PR executive Richard Hillgrove spoke to Mr Amess on a Zoom call just minutes before he was stabbed, according to The Sunday Times.
The pair discussed the Children’s Parliament, an event where children are matched with MPs to debate the important issues of the day. Mr Hillgrove, whose 11-year-old daughter Lola had been matched with Mr Amess, says their call ended at 12.02pm, so Mr Amess could host his constituency surgery at the church.
By 12.05pm, the MP had been fatally stabbed and minutes later, Mr Hillgrove saw reports of the attack on the television.
‘I didn’t even realise it was Sir David at first,’ he said. ‘I was absolutely horrified, every minute… seemed like an hour, the longer it went, the more concerning it got.’
Sir David’s close family were last night believed to be comforting each other at his mother-in-law’s home, which is four miles from where he was killed. The MP’s second cousins joined other well-wishers in laying floral tributes at the scene of his death, describing him as ‘a great man, husband, father and member of our family’.
David Amess says his family ‘pay big price’ for being an MP in unearthed clip
Sir David Amess said his family ‘paid a big price’ for him being an MP in a 10-year-old clip that has now been unearthed.
The politician had made the comments in an amateur documentary filmed by sixth-form pupil Alex Bright for an A-level project in 2011.
Sir David told the youngster that the ‘impact on one’s private life’ of being a politician was ‘very, very tough indeed’, The Mirror reports.
Alex, who went on to work closely with Sir David as a councillor, said that the quote ‘really stood out, looking back on what has just happened’.
Alex added: ‘He was kind enough to let me interview him and talk about the role of an MP, what’s demanded of an MP and what’s expected of an MP. He really cared.
‘This feels so surreal, like a nightmare. Sir David was such a nice and gentle person, you can’t fathom why anyone would do this.’
Cousins Moira and Pat wrote: ‘Thinking of your lovely family. Can’t believe this has actually happened. Will always love you.’
Constituent Erica Keane, who also laid flowers for Sir David, said: ‘My heart is broken for his family and for his children and for Southend, which we love dearly. He was everywhere and he was Southend.’
Last night, more than 100 people gathered at a candle-lit vigil at Belfairs Sports Ground in Leigh-on-Sea and took it in turns to pay tribute to the MP.
Andy Wilkins, 21, the chairman of Southend West Young Conservatives, said: ‘I had a meeting with him for half an hour yesterday. We spoke about plans for next year. I left 40 minutes before it happened. I am shocked. Words can’t describe how much of an inspiration he was to me as a mentor.’
One woman – who was too upset to give her name – said: ‘I work on the children’s ward at Southend Hospital. He used to come every Christmas and dress up as Santa.’
Local independent councillor Keith Evans said: ‘He was amazingly hard-working. He always rolled his sleeves up and got the job done.’
At an earlier vigil at Southend’s Civic Centre, well-wishers released blue balloons. Knighted for public service in 2015, Sir David was a tireless campaigner on issues ranging from Brexit to animal welfare and marine conservation.
Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father and a friend of Sir David, recalled seeing him at a meeting he hosted for the Conservative Animal Welfare Association at the Tory party conference earlier this month. ‘He talked about the important links between animal welfare, nature protection and the big challenges that we are facing at the moment.
‘Sir David was absolutely fundamental and has been for many years in the Conservative Party and in Parliament in pushing the animal welfare agenda.’
James Duddridge, the MP for Rochford and Southend East – a neighbouring constituency of Sir David’s – said: ‘He touched so many lives and in many ways was a benchmark MP in terms of his constituency work that we all aspire to.’
Southend mosques condemn ‘indefensible atrocity’
By Abul Taher and Jake Ryan for the Mail on Sunday
The fatal stabbing of MP Sir David Amess has been condemned as an ‘indefensible atrocity’ by mosques in Southend.
Faith leaders said that the father of five was an ‘upstanding friend to our Muslim community’ and attended key events, including weddings, mosque openings and the launch of the town’s first Muslim Scout group.
In a statement published on the Essex Jamme Masjid website, on behalf of ‘all Southend mosques’, they said their thoughts and prayers were with Sir David’s family, friends and colleagues.
Shocked members of the town’s Muslim community gathered near the scene of Sir David’s death to lay flowers in tribute to the MP for Southend West
The fatal stabbing of MP Sir David Amess has been condemned as an ‘indefensible atrocity’ by mosques in Southend
‘I can’t believe someone from this road could be linked to such horror’
Suspect Ali Harbi Ali lives on a sought-after North London street.
The tree-lined road, where properties sell for around £2 million, was also previously home to the late Only Fools And Horses actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who lived there for 27 years until his death in 2014.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who yesterday laid a wreath for Sir David Amess at the scene of his murder in Leigh-on-Sea, lives just streets away in trendy Kentish Town.
He is also the MP for the area where Ali lives with his father in their council-owned flat. The road, populated with Victorian terrace houses, most of which have three storeys, is described as ‘vibrant’ and ‘close knit’. It lies in the London Borough of Camden.
Other high-profile names with addresses nearby include former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and the late Labour Minister Tessa Jowell.
A 1959 film called Sapphire, about the murder of a young woman and exposing deep racial tensions in the capital, starring Fenella Fielding, was set in the street. It has been alive with police activity since Friday when police arrived to search the property. Residents reported seeing teams of officers, some wearing gloves, moving in and out of the house during Friday and yesterday.
One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘Police have been moving in and out all day. I’ve seen officers in unmarked vans with gloves on, plain clothes guys going in. They’ve been parked along the road.
‘I didn’t know the guy who lived there and never saw him. I can’t believe that someone on this road would be linked to that horrific attack.’
‘Sir David’s murder was an indefensible atrocity, committed on the grounds of a place of worship and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms,’ the statement said.
‘This act was committed in the name of blind hatred and we look forward to the perpetrator being brought to justice,’ it added.
Scotland Yard said early investigations had revealed ‘a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism’.
Shocked members of the town’s Muslim community gathered near the scene of Sir David’s death to lay flowers in tribute to the MP for Southend West.
Ruhul Shamsuddin, joint secretary of Essex Jamme Masjid, described the MP as a ‘tremendous force for good and pillar of support for our community’.
‘This was senseless violence against a truly wonderful man,’ he added.
Iftikhar Ul Haq, Imam at UKIM Southend Mosque, said Sir David was ‘always reachable’, adding: ‘He showed great compassion for communities and always was there to offer support.’
Last night, Somali leaders in the UK condemned the murder after reports emerged that a member of their community may be the alleged attacker. A 25-year-old man was being questioned by police.
The Council of Somali Organisations said in a statement: ‘We condemn the brutal murder of Sir David Amess MP.
‘This was a senseless murder which has shocked British communities across the country.
‘We are shocked and saddened by the senseless violence perpetrated upon an innocent Member of Parliament. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sir David Amess’s family, loved ones and anyone who has been affected by this callous act.’
The organisation’s director, Kahiye Alim, said: ‘I send my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Sir David Amess MP.
‘His life was one of service to others and we will remember his legacy as one of empowerment and community building.
‘We utterly condemn this brutal murder, which is an affront to all of our values and our democratic society itself.’
An Iranian opposition group paid tribute to Sir David, describing him as a ‘human rights champion’ and an ‘enemy of many dictators’.
Hossein Abedini was among several members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran who laid flowers yesterday.
DAN HODGES: I don’t know why Sir David Amess was killed but the visceral hatred of Tories at the heart of Labour has to end right now
Comment by Dan Hodges for the Mail on Sunday
I last saw David Amess a fortnight ago in the slightly incongruous setting of a houseboat moored on the Manchester Ship Canal.
We were attending the annual conference party thrown by Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, where David was in typically ebullient form.
As he left, he asked about my mother – the former Labour MP for Hampstead & Highgate – with whom he used to spar across the Commons chamber.
‘Give her my love,’ he requested, ‘though I’m not sure she would remember me.’
All Labour MPs remember David. His surprise victory in Basildon on Election night 1992 brought an end to the party’s hopes of ousting John Major.
But it was never held against him. As the warmth and sincerity of the tributes that have been paid from the Labour benches attest.
As news of the appalling attack was filtering through, a tweet from Angela Rayner expressing her own sympathies provoked anger from several Tory MPs and officials
Though not all of those tributes have been welcomed. As news of the appalling attack was filtering through, a tweet from Angela Rayner expressing her own sympathies provoked anger from several Tory MPs and officials.
‘She was calling us scum a few days ago,’ one told me. ‘She doesn’t get to express sympathy today.’
In the immediate aftermath of a horrifying event such as this, it’s understandable that emotions run high. So it’s important not to reach for knee-jerk-reactions, or apportion unnecessary blame.
But when an elected Member of Parliament has just been stabbed to death in their constituency surgery – and a house of worship – it’s also important not to hide unpalatable truths.
A court case is pending, and the terrible facts surrounding the death of David Amess will be brought to light.
But those seeking a direct parallel between the comments of Angela Rayner and the attack in Leigh-on-Sea should desist. Whatever motivated his killer, it will not prove to have been some ill-advised words at a Labour fringe meeting.
But if the brutal killing of a Conservative MP should not be used to draw inappropriate political parallels, it should at least give people pause.
And more specifically, it should give people on the Left pause.
When Jo Cox was murdered, a consensus quickly formed, one that prevails. It held that while she was murdered by a single individual, he did not act alone.
Thomas Mair was a product of what was loosely dubbed ‘far-Right’ extremism. He had links to the National Front and the English Defence League, and toured the internet, immersing himself in extremist far-Right propaganda.
Poison that still exists today. It can be seen in the fragmented but still active far-Right hate groups. It can be seen at the fringes of elements of the pro-Brexit movement. And it can increasingly be identified among elements of the anti-vax movement.
So the threat of Right-wing extremism is real. But at least it is recognised and, in the main, universally condemned by the political mainstream. And it exists primarily on the political fringes.
This morning, we have to begin to talk about and confront the scourge of Left-wing extremism.
It is a very different creature to the extremism of the Right. It is less overtly violent. But it is equally toxic and represents an equal risk to our democracy and its parliamentary representatives. Because, crucially, it does not reside on the political margins.
When an elected Member of Parliament has just been stabbed to death in their constituency surgery – and a house of worship – it’s also important not to hide unpalatable truths
One of the tributes issued to David Amess was from Labour MP John McDonnell. But in 2011, McDonnell said this: ‘I want to be in a situation where no Tory MP, no Tory or MP, no Coalition Minister, can travel anywhere in the country or show their face anywhere in public without being challenged by direct action.’
He added: ‘Any institution or any individual that attacks our class, we will come for you with direct action.’
Another of the tributes issued to David Amess came from Jeremy Corbyn. But recently the former Labour leader spoke at a fringe meeting at conference, at which he said: ‘You’ve probably noticed members of the Socialist Campaign Group disproportionately go through hell, high water and beyond at the hands of the media and the briefing machines… can we just have a thought tonight in absolute solidarity with our great friend Claudia Webbe for what she’s going through?’
Last Wednesday, Webbe was found guilty of harassment after threatening to throw acid at her partner’s female friend, and to send naked photos of her to her children.
The hatred on the far Right of politics is – rightly – well documented. But it’s no longer sustainable to continue to ignore and normalise the hatred nurtured within the mainstream of the Labour Party and the wider Labour movement.
When it was reported that Iain Duncan Smith and his wife had been assaulted walking towards the secure zone of the Tory Party conference, it was done so almost as an afterthought. The abuse and harassment of Conservative MPs and delegates attending their conference has become so routine it barely merits comment.
In fact, a perception has formed that for Tories this is merely the price of doing business.
Within Labour – the mainstream of the party, not the fringe – that is literally the view. The belief is that the Tories, simply because they are Tories, deserve what’s coming to them.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Angela Rayner did not brand all her Conservative parliamentary colleagues ‘scum’ because she really believes they’re all scum. She said it because she’s politically ambitious, and she thinks to get on in the Labour Party this is what her members want to hear. And she’s right, they do.
When it was reported that Iain Duncan Smith and his wife had been assaulted walking towards the secure zone of the Tory Party conference, it was done so almost as an afterthought
Politics is tough. All parties attempt to caricature – and to an extent demonise – their opponents. It was Conservative Central Office that was behind the most literal example, the Tony Blair ‘Demon Eyes’ poster.
But it is no longer possible to draw equivalence about the toxicity that exists within the two main parties. A visceral hatred of Tories is now embedded in Labour’s DNA in a way that is simply not reciprocated.
John McDonnell is not some Twitter warrior, but the former Labour Shadow Chancellor. Does anyone seriously think Rishi Sunak would contemplate instructing Tory activists to subject his opponents to the ominous-sounding direct action?
Could anyone imagine Theresa May expressing ‘solidarity’ with a Tory MP a day after evidence had been presented in court they had threatened to throw acid in someone’s face?
It’s not OK any more. Casual hatred of Conservative politicians and activists simply for committing the crime of being Conservatives is not acceptable. Not just because it ultimately proves counterproductive to the Left’s cause. Or because of the threat it poses to wider political engagement and democratic discourse. It’s wrong because it’s wrong.
A visceral hatred of Tories is now embedded in Labour’s DNA in a way that is simply not reciprocated. John McDonnell is not some Twitter warrior, but the former Labour Shadow Chancellor
And everyone – at least every sensible, decent person, of which there are many – in Labour’s ranks knows it’s wrong. Keir Starmer knows it. Angela Rayner knows it. Every Labour MP knows it. How ‘Never Kissed A Tory’ hatred is the currency of Labour politics.
It can’t continue like this. It can’t take the killing of a Conservative MP in their constituency office for the Left to set aside their tribalism and acknowledge the essential decency of one of their opponents.
Not least because that tribalism will not be set aside for long. Tomorrow, the House of Commons will gather for a moment of reflection. Sir Keir Starmer and other Labour MPs will help lead the tributes. And then it will be back to business as usual. ‘Tories – they hate the poor, they hate the migrants. They deserve everything they get.’
They don’t. Because they’re not ‘scum’. Tories are good, honest, decent, committed public servants, who just happen to have a different political philosophy.
David Amess wasn’t the exception, he was the rule. And it’s time for people on the Left – indeed, for all of us – to start to recognise it.
Preacher Anjem Choudary sparks fury by suggesting Sir David Amess may have been killed for being ‘pro-Israel’
By Abul Taher and Dominik Lemanski for the Mail on Sunday
Hate preacher Anjem Choudary was condemned last night for suggesting David Amess may have been killed for being ‘pro-Israel’.
The extremist said Sir David could also have been killed for being a member of the Tory Party, which has been in power for over a decade, during which time Britain has conducted military operations in Muslim countries.
Choudary made the callous comments a day after the MP for Southend West was killed, leaving the nation reeling in shock and grief.
Speaking from his council home in Ilford, East London, the 54-year-old said: ‘I am not sure about this particular MP’s views. The rumours are that he is pro-Israel, and he is part of the Conservative Party and they have been in power a long time, especially during the campaigns in Muslim countries such as Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan.’
Extremist: Anjem Choudary insisted that ‘no one in their right mind’ would support Israel. He made the comments a day after the MP for Southend West was killed
Sir David, 69, was not known for taking a hardline pro-Israeli stance, but he had been an honorary secretary of the Conservative Friends of Israel since 1998 and was often described as supportive of Britain’s Jewish community
When asked how Mr Amess’s ‘pro-Israel’ stance would make him a target, Choudary replied: ‘Many people do [believe] that it is a terrorist state, and who would possibly be a friend of Israel after you see the carnage that they carried out against Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and continue to do with the appropriation of properties?’
Friends fear Amess was targeted because he was a devout Catholic
Friends and constituents of David Amess fear he was targeted because of his Catholic faith.
The Conservative MP was a practising Roman Catholic who regularly attended his local St Peter’s Catholic Church.
Tributes to the politician were led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster. Yesterday, Douglas Cracknell, chairman of Leigh-on-Sea council, said Sir David’s devout faith was well-known to locals, who told The Mail on Sunday they feared it could have provided the motive for his murder. Mr Cracknell said: ‘Everyone knew about David’s Catholic faith – it was a big part of his character. He was a very generous man and was very helpful to us. This attacker may well have targeted him over his religion.’
John Moore, 45, who knew Sir David as his local MP, said: ‘People here are saying it could have been linked to David’s Catholicism. He was such an advocate for his religion, so a terrorist would want to take him out, wouldn’t they? It’s just so sad. You couldn’t meet a nicer man. We all admired him so much.’
During a homily at St Peter’s Catholic Church, Father Jeff Woolnough paid his respects to his late parishioner.
He said: ‘Firstly we remember David’s great faith and as a Catholic his practising sense of that faith. What that means is sharing that faith with everyone he meets, no matter who they are. That’s by being him, showing that great accessibility to all faiths when we are under attack by everyone who doesn’t understand the position the Catholic Church takes in the world. We are particularly grateful for Sir David’s stance on pro-life. David chose life, even in death, because we now know he is alive in the Spirit.’
But Choudary, a trained lawyer, was quick to point out that he does not condone the killing of anyone, let alone an MP, in Britain.
He said: ‘No one in their right and rational mind would support such a state [Israel].
‘Obviously that does not give someone justification for someone to kill someone. I believe there is a covenant of security in this country, where the lives and wealth of people with whom we Muslims live are protected in return for our lives and wealth.’
Sir David, 69, was not known for taking a hardline pro-Israeli stance, but he had been an honorary secretary of the Conservative Friends of Israel since 1998 and was often described as supportive of Britain’s Jewish community.
Imams and Muslim leaders in Southend said he was extremely friendly to them, and once told officials at the town’s Southend Mosque he even wanted to hold surgeries in their premises after Covid-19 restrictions eased.
Sir David was also friendly towards Arab countries and was chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Qatar, and had recently returned from an official visit to the Gulf country.
Last night, Professor Anthony Glees, an expert on extremism, said: ‘Not only is it outrageous and repugnant, but the whole motive of the attack is a matter for the police – not Mr Choudary.
‘He adds insult to injury by giving this view.
‘Like all brainwashed radicalisers, he will do everything he can to carry on making his poisonous comments. This is an attempt to radicalise others.’
Choudary, the former leader of the banned Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun, was jailed for six-and-a-half years in 2016 for inviting support for Islamic State.
He served less than half that term, and was out in 2019. He lived under licence restrictions until May this year.
The cleric is now free to preach again, but security sources have said that if he stoked up extremism in this country, he could be put under a form of house arrest known as Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, and tried again in court on terrorism and hate law charges.
Choudary is accused of radicalising dozens of Britain’s most notorious terrorists, including Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who killed Fusilier Lee Rigby at Woolwich Barracks in 2013.
Meeting the people who elected us is the very essence of being an MP, says SIR LINDSAY HOYLE after murder of Sir David Amess
By Sir Lindsay Hoyle for the Mail on Sunday
Sir David Amess was a regular in our office. Not because, like many MPs, he wanted to secure a debate or ask for something, but because he genuinely liked a gossip and a chat with my staff.
If he wasn’t talking about his family – he was a very proud husband and father-of-five – he would be talking about his love of animals or extolling the delights of his constituency of Southend West, a place that he told us and the House at every opportunity most certainly deserved to have city status.
But he also wanted to know what was going on in the lives of my colleagues, worrying if one of them wasn’t there. When one member of staff retired after 28 years’ service, David bestowed on him umpteen presents to show his appreciation.
That was David in Parliament – and that was David in his constituency.
A man who found a connection with everyone, no matter their background. A man who loved a laugh and always had a kind, or cheeky, word to say.
That was David in Parliament – and that was David in his constituency. A man who found a connection with everyone, no matter their background. A man who loved a laugh and always had a kind, or cheeky, word to say
As a dedicated MP, committed to serving and helping his constituents, he held his surgery, as he did regularly, at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.
Only four hours after David died, I had time to reflect on the vulnerability of MPs at their surgeries as I carried out my own in Chorley Town Hall in Lancashire.
For more than two hours, constituents poured through the doors to talk to me about cowboy builders, housing problems, access to mental health services – and even if I knew where a cheerleading group could find new premises.
But would I want that to end in the wake of the murders of two of my colleagues, David on Friday, and Jo Cox five years earlier?
To me, the answer has to be a very firm ‘no’. The very essence of being an MP is to help and be seen by our constituents.
They are the people who elected us to represent them, so surely making ourselves available to them is the cornerstone of our democracy?
After Jo was murdered on her way to meet constituents at a surgery in her Batley and Spen constituency, MPs were offered a suite of new measures by the House of Commons security department to make their homes and offices safer – and I strongly advised MPs to take up all the options available and continue to do so.
However, we now need to take stock and review whether those measures are adequate to safeguard MPs, staff and constituents especially during surgeries. We are working closely and at pace with the Home Office and the police to identify options.
Most MPs are like David and Jo – good, decent people who work hard, who love helping their constituents and representing them in Parliament.
Many are separated from their families for days on end while working in Westminster, yet willingly sacrifice their home and personal life to speak up for those who do not have a voice, in the hope it will lead to something better.
As a dedicated MP, committed to serving and helping his constituents, he held his surgery, as he did regularly, at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea
If anything positive is to come out of this latest awful tragedy, it is that the quality of political discourse has to change.
The conversation has to be kinder and based on respect. This incident has shown that there is unity across the political divide in support of democracy. The hate, which drives these attacks, has to end.
Disagreements with politicians should be solved at the ballot box, not via threats, intimidation or murder.
For now, I want to remember my lovely friend and think about the devastated family he leaves behind.
I also need to spend some time with my staff, who are heartbroken that someone they were particularly fond of will not be visiting any more.
SARAH VINE: The death threat inside my daughter’s 18th birthday card reveals how abuse of MPs and their families is a modern blood sport
By Sarah Vine for the Mail on Sunday
By all accounts, Sir David Amess was the gentlest and kindest of men – a veteran public servant who dedicated his life to his constituents. He never harboured ministerial ambitions, preferring to campaign on local issues directly affecting the people he represented. He was old-school: an MP who brought about real change for real people.
I came across him only once, very briefly, years ago, at that most quirky of parliamentary events, the Westminster Dog of the Year show. Sir David loved animals and fought all his life for their welfare.
He and his beloved French bulldog, Vivienne, were hot favourites to win 2021’s contest. ‘If I am feeling down, she lifts my spirits as she is always pleased to see me and she makes me smile,’ he said, adding that she deserved to win ‘because she is an enthusiastic supporter of Southend becoming a city!’
Now Vivienne and Southend have lost their greatest champion and Parliament mourns the passing of one of its most enduring members. Saddest of all, though, is that his family – Sir David had five children with his wife Julia Arnold – have lost a beloved father and husband.
There truly are some moments when the words can’t reach, and this is one of them. It was the same when the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in 2016 in similar circumstances to Sir David, serving her constituents at a surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire.
An act of senseless brutality that shocks and confuses and calls into question everything we’ve ever believed about the fundamental decency of the human spirit, reminding us that evil really does exist, and that it doesn’t discriminate.
Of course MPs aren’t the only public servants who face violence and threats in the line of duty. Let us not forget men like PC Keith Palmer, who was killed during the 2017 Westminster attack, or PC Andrew Harper, who died in horrific circumstances in 2019.
But a fatal attack on a MP on a quiet Friday afternoon in a Methodist church is not just a wicked act of violence against an innocent man, it’s also a blow to the very heart and soul of Britain as a liberal democracy.
Tory MP Sir David Amess on his daughter’s wedding day, just weeks before he was killed
British Politician Jo Cox was murdered by Thomas Mair in similar circumstances in 2016
It’s at times like this that all the freedoms and rights we take for granted feel as vulnerable as a single human life. So easily snuffed out by evil or prejudice or just plain insanity, and with them all civilisation and reason.
Because people such as Sir David don’t just represent those who elect them, they represent democracy itself, that most fragile of political systems which, while far from perfect, remains the fairest and most tolerant form of government we’ve got.
Quite simply, our elected representatives are all that stand between us and the kind of despotic, barbaric regimes we see rampaging out of control elsewhere in the world. Without them, we would be at the mercy of corruption and chaos; without them there would be no such thing as justice, only the brutal will of the strongest.
It’s easy to forget that this is the case, especially in a world of cheap headlines and rampant egos of the kind who, like Nick Robinson, think they can tell the Prime Minister to ‘stop talking’ as though he were nothing more than a cocky teenager.
But then that is what it means to live in a democracy: freedom of expression and the right to challenge authority.
But there is also an irony here. Because it is precisely democracy, and in particular the defence of free speech, that is partly responsible for not only these fatal attacks on MPs, but for the astonishing level of daily abuse and threats that all MPs – and their families – suffer in the course of their work.
It is no coincidence that these attacks have rocketed in intensity since the advent of social media. Unchecked, unregulated and uncensored by the rules that govern traditional media outlets, social media platforms have become breeding grounds for hate, feeding the worst and darkest aspects of the human psyche by allowing abuse and lies to flourish.
Abdicating all responsibility on the grounds that they are not, per se, ‘publishers’, but merely ‘platforms’ – and therefore not responsible for third-party content – they act as cauldrons for extremism and paranoia, disseminating half-truths and bogus conspiracies and allowing certain groups or individuals to be grotesquely misrepresented and vilified. All without acknowledging one iota of responsibility for the outcome.
This has resulted in a situation where abuse against public figures has not only become a kind of online blood sport, it’s also become thoroughly normalised.
The childish and toxic popularism of individuals such as Angela Rayner (pictured), who seem to think it’s OK to call her fellow parliamentarians ‘homophobic, racist, misogynistic Tory scum’ for the sake of a cheap round of applause, means it’s not hard to see how, in an unsound or wicked mind, stabbing a defenceless man to death might seem justified, SARAH VINE writes
In the same way that, over the years, online pornography has gradually legitimised violence against women, seeding patterns of toxic behaviour in all areas of life, from pop music to the playground, and culminating in the depraved crimes of men such as Wayne Couzens, so the persistent bile and vitriol aimed at MPs across various social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter eggs on sick individuals, encouraging and – perhaps most importantly – enabling abusive and dangerous behaviour.
Add to that the childish and toxic popularism of individuals such as Angela Rayner, who seem to think it’s OK to call her fellow parliamentarians ‘homophobic, racist, misogynistic Tory scum’ for the sake of a cheap round of applause, and it’s not hard to see how, in an unsound or wicked mind, stabbing a defenceless man to death might seem justified.
There are now almost no limits to the level of abuse many MPs – and in particular Tory MPs, who are also affected by the vitriolic and desperation-driven tactics of the far Left – now face.
By way of example, take the 18th birthday card addressed to my daughter that popped through the front door earlier this year. With her name and address in multi-coloured childish writing, it looked like something from a cousin or friend.
Excitedly, she opened it. Inside a card that read ’18 today! Yay!’ with a badge attached saying ’18, Woo!’
And inside that, in letters cut out from a magazine or newspaper, the following message: ‘Tell your dad that if he doesn’t [and here I can’t specify for security reasons] he won’t live to see you turn 19. Do not make this public.’
Of all the many messages of hate and harassment we have as a family received over the years (and believe me, there have been plenty), that one shook me the most.
It was not just that the person had our home address (again, thank you social media and the internet – not to mention whoever it was who daubed it on a wall in Northern Ireland), it was the fact that in seeking to harm my husband, they had chosen to threaten my daughter.
As a mother, that provokes a visceral response. That is someone who doesn’t care they are attacking a wholly blameless 17-year-old, violating her identity and threatening to kill her father if she doesn’t comply with their demands.
They don’t see her as human; to them she is just a legitimate vehicle for their own hatred.
No matter that now her 18th birthday will always be marred by the memory of that sickly executed death threat, or that a part of her will always live in fear of her father suffering the same terrible fate as kind, sweet, animal-loving Sir David.
Who cares? After all, we are all just ‘scum’, aren’t we, Angela?
No doubt over the next days and weeks there will be much discussion about what is to be done, and how we can ensure the safety of our parliamentarians. I’m afraid it will all come to nothing.
Because unless the public is prepared to pay for all MPs to have enhanced security, which, let’s face it, is unlikely in the current economic climate, you won’t ever stop individuals with hate and determination in their hearts.
Besides, the enemy here is a far greater one. It’s a culture of loathing and abuse that hangs low like a toxic cloud around all our heads.
It’s a world where someone who dedicates their entire life to helping others can be labelled as ‘scum’, and where political discourse is conducted in 280-character bursts by pond-life who wouldn’t even make it out of the slime were it not for the swamp provided by social media.
Until that changes, nothing will change. All MPs and their families can do is pray for their lost colleagues. And hope that next time it’s not them.
Pressure growing to fulfil his wish to make beloved Southend a city
MPs from across the political divide last night united behind bestowing Southend-on-Sea with city status in honour of Sir David Amess.
Sir David campaigned passionately for the Essex town to become a city for 21 years as a proud local MP. Now, following his tragic death, colleagues are demanding his memory be honoured by granting Southend city status in a ‘fitting memorial’ to the 69-year-old.
Tory MP Chris Skidmore said it was Sir David’s ‘one great ambition left in Parliament’ to see his beloved town become a city, and while it became a running joke between the pair, he was in no doubt that Sir David was ‘passionately serious’.
He added: ‘Not only did we exchange many letters, had meetings, every time I saw him in the tea room or passed him in the corridor he would shout out, ‘Don’t forget to make Southend a city.’ No opportunity was ever missed. So with the jubilee next year, let’s give Southend city status and see Sir David’s final ambition realised. Tragically, he will never see that moment happen, but it would be a fitting memorial to a man who dedicated his life, and ultimately laid it down for his community.’
Since 2000, Sir David relentlessly pushed for the Essex town to be shown its dues, most recently arguing it would help attract investment post-Brexit and Covid. At this year’s Westminster Dog of the Year contest, Sir David entered his French bulldog Vivienne. Asked why she should win, he said: ‘Because she is an enthusiastic supporter of Southend becoming a city.’
Replying to a tweet suggesting Southend be given city status, Labour MP Charlotte Nichols said: ‘Absolutely. I can’t think of a better way to honour his memory.’