ITV Anglia's David Whiteley is from Leigh-on-Sea and knew Sir David Amess for many years. He gives his personal memories and thoughts following his death.
I first met Sir David many years ago when I worked in commercial radio. In the mid-nineties, I was a rookie reporter and newsreader at Essex FM, a station that no longer exists, but was right in the heart of Sir David's Southend West constituency. The newsroom was in the basement, nicotine stained the walls, and many of the journalists would have a cigarette on the go, while they worked through the day's agenda. Despite the smoky atmosphere, and less than appealing conditions, Sir David would always be willing to pop in for an interview. After all, he was new to the seat and would, without fail, get Southend into every conversation.
If we needed a soundbite, or a full blown interview for our news programme, we knew we could pick up the phone and Sir David would come in. The thing I remember, looking back, is how he always had a smile on his face. He was genuinely pleased to see you and also, genuinely concerned if you told him anything untoward had happened to yourself or others. He certainly had empathy and sympathy.
I interviewed him on many occasions, over a whole range of issues. But, at his very core, was his constituency and the people he represented. Having met so many MPs in the past, it is very clear that being one is a vocation. It's a seven day a week job and an all consuming way of life. It certainly was for Sir David.
I saw him the most at community events. In fact, we chatted most not about politics on camera, but about life off it. I grew up in Leigh-on-Sea. His constituency office, in the same town. Growing up I was a Sea Scout in Old Leigh and that would lead me to be the compere of 'The Old Leigh Regatta', given my connections and being a broadcaster, they'd get me involved every year. And every year, without fail, at the Sunday evening prize-giving, Sir David Amess would be there. He would always let the current Mayor or Mayoress take the limelight, but he would attend to support the charity event, praising the scouts and the organisers. It was at the end of these long weekends he and I would catch up. Sir David would ask about my career and family. A man with an incredible memory for people and a genuine interest in how you were getting on.
I know right up until his death he supported so many people and organisations in his constituency. And, very much championing my old Sea Scout group too. He would fly the flag for the troop at 3rd Chalkwell Bay. And today, they brought their flag to half mast to honour and remember Sir David. He will be sorely missed by so many.