Sir David Amess’s successor backs face-to-face meetings as security increased

A candle and a photo at a vigil at St Michael & All Angels church in Leigh-on-Sea Essex for Conservative MP Sir David Amess last October Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The successor of murdered MP Sir David Amess is determined to keep meeting constituents face to face but security at her surgeries has had to be increased, she said in an interview a year on from the veteran politician’s death.

The 69-year-old father of five was stabbed to death while meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on October 15 2021.

Jurors found Sir David’s killer, Ali Harbi Ali, guilty of murder after just 18 minutes of deliberation at the Old Bailey in April, and he was handed a whole-life prison term.

Anna Firth was elected as MP for Southend West at a by-election in February.

Speaking a year on from Sir David’s murder, 56-year-old Ms Firth said: “One of the things I was very determined to do in carrying on his legacy was to continue meeting people face to face.

“I think it’s a really important aspect of an MP’s job that people can contact you if they’ve got problems.

“It’s something that David thought as well.”

She said she has continued with surgeries, but they are now held “where we’ve got slightly more security”.

“I think in some ways obviously I would rather we didn’t have any barriers to seeing your MP but I would far rather that we do things safely, particularly as some of my staff were also involved with Sir David and I’m really, really lucky that some of his team have stayed with me,” Ms Firth said.

“It’s really important that we keep them safe.”

She said she had been on a wreck diving holiday when she heard that an MP in the UK had been stabbed.

Ms Firth said she learned later that day that it was Sir David.

Anna Firth Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

“I genuinely think to this day no-one can really believe that such a lovely, lovely man and fantastic MP could be taken from us just going about his job, doing the most brilliant job, and in a church,” she said.

Sir David had served Southend West since 1997, and Basildon before that since 1983, and Ms Firth said it was “as if he knew everybody”.

“It was as if he was a headmaster who didn’t just have 500 pupils to know and look after,” she said.

“He had 70,000 and he knew every one of them.”

Ms Firth said it was an “enormous privilege” to serve as his successor and “hard in one sense because people need to talk”.

“They need to talk about their memories of Sir David and their reflections,” she said.

“But because he was such an amazing MP it means that there’s a fantastic legacy.

“My biggest problem is how to do as many things as Sir David did.

“I’m convinced he must have had about six body doubles following him around the constituency.

“He supported so many people and so many charities and to such a high level, so it’s a challenge but it’s a wonderful challenge to have.”

John Lamb, chairman of the Southend West Conservative Association, said Sir David had wanted to meet his constituents in the community.

The 74-year-old said: “We used to have surgeries (at Sir David’s constituency office) but for David it wasn’t good enough.

“Because the bus services weren’t that good he wanted to go out and meet the people so he did, he got out and about.

“We’ve had to improve the security around how we do it but our new MP Anna is in fact still very keen to meet the people and to help them.”