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New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne defiant on holding public surgeries, despite killing of Conservative colleague Sir David Amess

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SIR Desmond Swayne has vowed to keep holding open surgeries with the public, despite the tragic killing of Conservative colleague Sir David Amess.

The Southend West MP was fatally stabbed last week while holding a regular Friday meeting with constituents at a church.

But New Forest West MP Sir Desmond, who holds monthly public surgeries, said he had never been threatened and stated: “I have no intention of changing my arrangements.”

Sir Desmond Swayne
Sir Desmond Swayne

Sir David, who was 69, was rushed to hospital but died later that afternoon from his injuries. Police have declared it a terrorist incident.

He was the second MP to be killed in five years – Labour’s Jo Cox was murdered in 2016 – and questions have been raised over the security afforded to MPs and whether they should continue to engage with members of the public.

However, Sir Desmond said: “In responding to such shocking events there is always a danger of overreacting. In the commentaries that have followed Sir David’s murder there have been, in my estimate, a number of such overreactions.

“I am very fortunate in never having been threatened, or having felt threatened in the 23 years since I was elected.”

Stressing he had “every sympathy” for colleagues who are “constantly being threatened”, he added: “Clearly, appropriate precautions need to be taken to protect them. Demands for police protection for all MPs are, however, quite misplaced. There are many calls on police time.

Dr Julian Lewis
Dr Julian Lewis

“After all, many more ordinary members of the public have been killed by terrorist outrages in recent years.

“It would be a denial of democracy if politicians were to be protected from the public who elect them.”

His view was echoed by Christchurch MP Sir Chris Chope, who said despite a number of “grotesque incidents” constituents should not be deprived of meeting their MP face to face.

While Sir Chris and New Forest East MP Julian Lewis do not hold surgeries, constituents can contact them for a meeting.

Dr Lewis would not be drawn on his thoughts over face-to-face meetings – although he pointed out he has previously campaigned to have MPs’ security tightened and for their home addresses not to be revealed publicly.

Sir David Amess (picture: PA)
Sir David Amess (picture: PA)

The Tory backbencher added: “David and I first met in 1977. He was kind-hearted, good natured and completely dedicated to his constituents."

Sir Chris noted he and Sir David were elected at the same time in 1983, adding they had been “good mates” and “shared a love and appreciation for Margaret Thatcher”, adding: “The whole thing is so sad.”

Sir Desmond called Sir David a “friend and devoted servant of the public”, adding: “He embraced so many campaigns -supporting families; poverty; animal cruelty- with enormous enthusiasm and lasting stamina.“Above all, he was most generous with that most precious of commodities – his time. He was always prepared to give you his time and help you out if you had a problem.”

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