LEIGH-ON-SEA, ENGLAND – A long-serving member of Parliament was stabbed to death on Friday during a meeting with constituents at a Church of England, an attack that shocked and devastated Britain’s fractious politicians. united in sorrow. A 25-year-old youth was arrested from the spot.
Police said counter-terrorism officials were leading the investigation into the murder of Conservative MP David Ames, but they have yet to determine whether it was a terrorist attack. They did not identify the suspect, who was held on suspicion of murder.
Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said: “The investigation is in its early stages.”
Another lawmaker, Joe Cox, was assassinated five years after a far-right extremist in his small-town constituency, and it raised concerns about the risk of his work being represented by politicians as voters. I renewed the concern. British politicians are generally not given police protection when they meet with their constituents.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he and his cabinet were “deeply shocked and heartbroken”.
“David was a man who believed passionately in this country and its future, and we have lost a fine public servant and a very dear friend and colleague today,” Johnson said.
The prime minister would not say whether the attack meant politicians needed tighter protection, saying, “We really should leave the police to investigate them.”
Ames, 69, was attacked in the afternoon at a Methodist church in the city of Leigh-on-Sea, about 40 miles (62 km) east of London. Paramedics tried to save him without success. Police arrested the accused and recovered a knife.
“We are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident and do not believe there is any danger to the wider public,” police said.
Ames was a Member of Parliament for Southend West, which includes Leigh-on-Sea since 1997, and a legislator since 1983, making him one of the longest-serving politicians in the House of Commons.
A social conservative on the right of his party, he was a well-known figure with a reputation for working hard for his constituents and continuously campaigning to declare Southend a city.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015 for his service as Sir David.
Politicians across the political spectrum expressed shock and grief over the death of AIIMS which left behind a wife and five children. The flags were halved in Parliament.
House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: “This is an incident that will send a wave of shock to the Parliamentary community and to the nation as a whole.” “In the coming days we will need to discuss and investigate the safety of lawmakers and any measures taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Violence against British politicians is rare, but concerns have risen in recent years about the increasingly bitter polarization of the country’s politics. Several people have been jailed in recent years for threatening British lawmakers.
In 2016, a week before the country’s divisive Brexit referendum, Labor MP Cox was stabbed and shot in his North England constituency. An extremist was convicted.
British lawmakers are protected by armed police when they are inside parliament, and security there was tightened after an attacker inspired by the Islamic State group fatally stabbed a police officer at the gate in 2017.
But politicians have no such protection in their constituencies. AIIMS publishes the times and locations of its open meetings with constituents on its website.
Two other British MPs have been attacked over the past two decades during their “surgery”, regular meetings where constituents can present concerns and complaints.
Labor legislator Stephen Timms was radicalized in 2010 by a student with online sermons from an al-Qaeda-linked preacher.
In 2000, Liberal Democrat Nigel Jones and his colleague Andrew Pennington were attacked by a man holding a sword during one such meeting. Pennington was killed and Jones was injured in the attack in Cheltenham, England.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May, a conservative, tweeted that the Ames killing was “a sad day for our democracy”, and former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was “shocked and horrified.”
Conservative MP Tracy Crouch tweeted: “Heartbroken. I could write on how Sir David was one of the kindest, most compassionate, likable colleagues in Parliament. But I can’t. I Feeling sick. I’m lost.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party said on Twitter: “In a democracy, politicians should be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no one deserves to take their own life to work for and represent their constituents Is.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Church of England, said the killing was “a blow to everyone who aspires to a peaceful and prosperous democracy.”
Kim Leadbeater, Joe Cox’s sister and now Member of Parliament herself, said it was “horrifying” that Ames’s family was experiencing what she was going through.
“They would think about this every day for the rest of their lives,” she said.
“I am now working myself as a politician and trying to do good work for the people, and it is really important that you get good people in public life, but this is the risk we are all taking. , and so many MPs would be scared of it.”
Jill Lawless reported from London