Every MP has “lost a friend” following Sir David Amess’s death, Theresa May said, as a sombre House of Commons gathered to pay tribute to the murdered MP.
Conservative former prime minister Mrs May held up Sir David as an example of how MPs should go about serving the public if they want to be a “first-class constituency MP”.
She also hailed him as someone who “made a difference to people’s lives” before saying it was a “wonderful legacy” that Southend will be given city status following his longstanding campaign.
Mrs May also urged MPs to “bring the same respect, decency and compassion that were the symbols of his life” when discussing issues, a call echoed by others in the chamber in a bid for a more civilised approach to politics.
Mrs May concluded: “His compassion made a difference to people outside of this House, his kindness made a difference inside this House. Our thoughts and prayers are with Julia and the family. Their loss is devastating.
“His constituency has lost a much-respected and loved Member of Parliament. This House has lost a remarkable and valued parliamentarian. And every member of this House has lost a friend. May he rest in peace.”
MPs began Monday’s sitting by observing a minute’s silence in memory of Sir David.
The Speaker’s chaplain, Tricia Hillas, also led specially written prayers before asking a busy Commons chamber to rise to remember the Conservative MP for Southend West.
She told the chamber: “May the bright memory of his rich life ever outshine the tragic manner of his death.”
Most of the scheduled parliamentary business on Monday was postponed in order to enable both the House of Commons and House of Lords to pay tribute to Sir David, who was killed in a knife attack on Friday.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “The circumstances of Sir David’s death are despicable and raise the most fundamental issues about how members of this House are able to perform their vital democratic responsibilities safely and securely.
“In light of the ongoing police investigation I will not say more about the events, but I give the House my undertaking I will do everything in my power to ensure that these issues are treated with urgency and with the sense of priority that they deserve.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “It is agonising to know that we will not see his wonderful smile again.
“And it took no effort on David’s part to conduct the business of politics in a civilised, good-humoured way, which came naturally to him.
“Decency ran through him like the writing in a stick of Southend rock. David represented all that was good about this place, so let us all carry his life forward, and reflect his passionate commitment to making things better for the people we serve.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Each tribute paints its own picture of a committed public servant of kindness, and a man whose decency touched everybody that he met.
“Taken together these tributes are a powerful testimony to the respect, the affection and yes, the love that David was held in across politics, and across different communities.
“Together they speak volumes about the man that he was, and the loss that we grieve.
“Sir David was a dedicated parliamentarian and his loss is felt profoundly across this House. We are united in our grief at this terrible time. We are thinking of David and his family. We are thinking once again of our dear friend Jo Cox, who was killed just five short years ago.”
Sir Keir added Sir David held his beliefs “passionately but gently”, adding: “I believe that not only can we learn from that but that we have a duty to do so. Civility in politics matters.”
Conservative former minister Mark Francois described Sir David as his “best and oldest friend in politics”, adding: “I confess I am hurting terribly so I hope the House will therefore forgive me if, because of that, my contribution this afternoon is even more incoherent than usual.”
The MP for neighbouring Rayleigh and Wickford added: “Everything I ever learned about being a constituency MP I learnt from David Amess. He sponsored me for the candidates’ list and he mentored me when I arrived.
“Without him I would never have become a member of Parliament, so some might well argue he has much to answer for.”