Locals gather to pay respects to an old British legislator

Locals gather to pay respects to an old British legislator

London — Hundreds of residents gathered in the southeastern English seaside resort of Southend on Monday to pay their respects to their veteran British parliamentarian who was stabbed to death last month while meeting with his constituents.

After a funeral service at a local church, David Amis’s coffin was taken by a horse-drawn choir to procession around Southend, the constituency he has represented since 1997.

People gathered outside the Civic Center in Southend to pay their respects as the bell, led by four black horses, stopped in front of it. Uniformed police officers bowed their heads when the bell arrived, with members of the audience breaking in to applaud.

Earlier, at a special ecumenical service at St Mary’s, Ames’ friend and fellow Conservative, Marc François, gave a eulogy in which he praised his humor and hard work on behalf of his constituents.

“Boy, did David Amis honor the contract with his employers — and in his own unique style,” Francois said. “Whatever Parliament’s weaknesses were, David Amis was the living embodiment of all its strengths.”

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Former Conservative legislator Ann Wydecombe, a friend of Ames, read a statement on behalf of his family asking people to “put hate aside” and urging forgiveness.

In honor of Ames, Southend was given city status, a campaign that Ames led for years, using his interventions in the House of Commons to promote a largely symbolic cause.

On Tuesday, a mass will be held at Westminster Cathedral in London for devout Catholics, during which a message from the Pope will be exchanged.

Ames, 69, was attacked around midday on 15 October during his weekly constituency meeting at a church in Les-on-Sea, a county in Southend 40 miles (60km) east of London. The father of five had multiple stab wounds. Ali Harbi Ali, 25, is charged with murder in connection with Ames’ death, as part of an investigation by counterterrorism officers. He is scheduled to face trial next year.

Ames’ death has caused shock and concern across the British political spectrum, just five years after Labor MP Jo Cox was murdered by a far-right extremist in her small constituency.

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Ames, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015, died doing what he loved most – helping residents in his Southend West constituency. Under Britain’s parliamentary system, lawmakers have direct links with their local constituents, and usually host open meetings, or “surgeries,” on Fridays to hear their concerns.

Ames has clearly been a popular lawmaker, winning 10 of 10 elections since he was first elected to Parliament in the seat next to Basildon in 1983.

Although he did not hold a cabinet position during his long career and had a reputation for being a social conservative on issues such as the death penalty and abortion, he was considered a mediator in Parliament, and a lawmaker able to forge alliances across political divide.

His killing has renewed concern about the risks politicians are exposed to as they work to represent voters. British politicians generally do not have the protection of the police when they meet with their constituents – unlike the tight security measures in place in Parliament.

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