A British lawmaker since 1983 from the Conservatives’ right wing, David Amess was a maverick Eurosceptic long before the party leadership embraced all-out opposition to the EU.
Amess, who was stabbed to death on Friday at the age of 69, never made it to the front ranks of government.
But his outspokenness and unfashionable opinions kept him in the media limelight, and his beaming face was a standout image from the Conservatives’ shock election victory in 1992 under John Major.
The successor to Margaret Thatcher, Major had been written off by most pundits. But when Amess retained his marginal seat of Basildon, east of London, it was clear that the opposition Labour party had fallen short.
He was one of a handful of Tory backbenchers who made life miserable for Major in the 1990s owing to their unstinting opposition to the prime minister’s attempts to adopt the latest EU treaty.
It was a portent of future battles. By 2016, when Britain held its Brexit referendum, Amess and other anti-EU diehards were far closer to the Conservative mainstream.
Amess, a Roman Catholic, opposed abortion among other right-wing totems. But he was hard to categorise, and enjoyed respect in the House of Commons where many colleagues lauded his kindness and tenacity.
Fellow Tory Roger Gale entered parliament on the same day in 1983 and the two became fast friends.
“He was funny. He was fun. He was dedicated and determined. But unlike some of us who maybe take things too seriously, he was never too serious, but was always serious at the right time,” Gale told Sky News.
“That’s why he was such an effective member of parliament. He was like a terrier,” he said. “If he got his teeth into an issue on behalf of a constituent, he wouldn’t let go.”
– Range of causes –
Amess came from a modest background in Essex, on London’s eastern fringe, and came to represent many former Labour working-class voters who embraced Thatcher’s entrepreneurial spirit in the 1980s.
Unlike many in his party, Amess did not study at an elite private school or university.
He worked in insurance and recruitment before graduating from local council politics to the Westminster parliament, and was known as a hard-working, and respected MP.
He was a passionate advocate for animal welfare and opposed to fox-hunting, which was eventually banned by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2005.
Another cause was support for the exiled Iranian opposition movement the People’s Mojahedin of Iran, appearing at events organised by its political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, calling for “regime change”.
The NCRI’s Paris-based leader, Maryam Rajavi, said she was “profoundly saddened” at his death. “He was an honorable friend of the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance in their quest for freedom and democracy,” she wrote on Twitter.
Amess’ Tory colleague, trade minister Penny Mordaunt, said he helped 200 children with learning disabilities play the Royal Albert Hall, which was “a measure of the man”.
A favourite in the 1990s for broadcast bookers, Amess was spoofed by a satirical news programme in 1997 about a new drugs craze supposedly sweeping Britain, later even raising the issue in parliament.
Knighted in 2015, Amess celebrated the occasion by donning full medieval armour, bearing a standard athwart a horse.
He had five children with his wife Julia, including an actress daughter.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)