Remembering two much-loved politicians dedicated to their constituents
- Credit: PA
Before passing on to any wider comment, I am grateful to this newspaper for enabling me to formally express my deepest condolences to the family, friends and political colleagues of Sir David Amess and of the former Leader of Exeter City Council, Pete Edwards.
Both men, by reputation, were outstanding and dedicated servants of their constituents’ interests, and sadly died last week. Tributes have flowed freely and at East Devon District Council we pay tribute to them with a minute's silence at Full Council this week. Naturally, I suspect that a greater proportion of readers will now know of Sir David, and if I may I will begin there.
At the outset, I must say that with an arrested suspect and an impending prosecution, we must tread carefully around alleged motives, although more information is becoming available as each day passes. Connections to Somalia, its connections to Qatar, and Sir David’s own connections to Qatar may yet show that this evil act was less random than first thought. Time will tell.
The horrific nature of this vile murder, will have troubled all of us in our thoughts and even prayers in the ensuing days. One blessing which arose, however, was that national political figures have as one risen to the terrible occasion with well-worded and deeply considered tributes.
What may have struck most of us is that Sir David had many opponents to his own very determined views both within his own party, and across the spectrum. He took firm lines as an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage campaigner, devoutly pro-Brexit and so on. This could have perhaps marked him out for disdain in some quarters, and he will have been aware that these views were divisive.
However, all tributes report that despite the obvious conviction which lay behind all this, his personal conduct, his courteous nature, and his good-humoured behaviour with others ensured that contentious discussions could be had in a civilised way. Words must sometimes have been heated on occasion, but it seems that he always tried to make sure that those key personal relationships remained on good terms. The loss to his family is hard to conceive, but their own profoundly graceful and kind response to what has happened to their loved husband and father has been the most moving tribute of all.
The day after Sir David’s death at Exeter City Football Club there was another tribute, a minute’s applause for Pete Edwards. I was meant to have been at the match in the company of the now Leader of Exeter City Council, Cllr Phil Bialyk but had caught the newly circulating cold and was too unwell to attend. However, I was able to see this tribute on video later and this too was very moving. For, like Sir David with his decades of commitment to Southend, Pete had been wholly dedicated to the people of Exeter.
Like Phil Bialyk he had been a bus driver, then a union leader, then a councillor and finally the Leader of the Council, serving more than a quarter of a century on Exeter City Council, its Leader from 2011-19. And the tributes have had a remarkably similar ring in some respects.
His former deputy leader, Cllr Rachel Sutton, gave a good-humoured quote that “about the only thing he has in common with Jacob Rees-Mogg is that he has never changed a nappy either, but there is a difference between what he says and what he does, given the larger number of portfolio positions he has given to female and younger members of the council. He had confidence in us and the trust to give us female member portfolio roles. He will be judged not by his sometimes unpolitically correct comments but by his very politically correct actions.”
Two much-loved politicians, real local people, books not to be read by their covers, who will be greatly missed. May they rest in peace.