Paula Sherriff was the Labour MP who Conservative rival Sir David Amess helped through cancer and she remembers the MP – killed on Friday in a horror knife attack – as ‘so warm, kind and funny… you couldn’t help but love him’
Former Labour MP Paula Sherriff, who lost her seat in Dewsbury, West Yorks, at the 2019 general election, became firm friends with Conservative Sir David Amess after the pair bonded on a parliamentary trip to the Middle East.
Speaking to Deputy Political Editor BEN GLAZE, Paula remembers the late MP – and says that five years on from the murder of her constituency neighbour Jo Cox, she is mortified that another politician has been killed.
David was a true gentleman.
We properly got to know each other during a trip to Qatar with the All-Party Parliamentary Group in 2017.
I remember meeting him at the airport. I had seen the list of who was going and I knew very little about him. But as soon as we met I could tell he was the best company.
He was warm, he was kind, but most of all he was funny.
We landed in Qatar and had a meeting with the British Ambassador. It was really late and one MP kept asking questions and we were all thinking ‘Will you shut up?!’ David wrote him a note saying: “Shut up!” We were all howling and from that moment we bonded.
We went to this souk and we were both really distressed because there were lots of dogs in cages and we hatched a plan, a silly plan – I’m not even sure we ever would have done it – but if we returned we were going to let all the dogs out.
We were both massive dog lovers. David actually fell in love with a dog he saw over there and made attempts to bring it home.
We went to see the Emir of Qatar and we were sitting in this really grand room, the size of an Olympic stadium, and David started talking about how he’d heard the Emir watches Love Island.
We were all laughing – his humour was incredible, he was a joy to spend time with and he never took himself too seriously.
On the final day the Qataris took us to this camel farm. There was this camel being examined and this vet was up to his shoulder inside the camel. David was laughing so much.
Afterwards, we got back in the minibus and went to a camel racecourse where they had put on a race for us, and he was still laughing.
After that trip we were firm friends in Parliament, despite being rarely in the same voting lobby.
Even though we had little in common politically, he was just wonderful. When I left parliament –well, when I got chucked out of parliament – he rang me not long afterwards and said to me: “Paula, I’ve met your successor. I introduced myself, saying, ‘I’m one of Paula’s good friends – you’ve got a very hard act to follow’.”
I just thought that was so kind.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, he sent me flowers. He really got it and he stayed in touch.
Two weeks ago he asked if we could meet in Manchester at Tory conference, but I’ve been working and I’ve not been that well, so I couldn’t make it.
He was the epitome of a gentleman, he was quite old-fashioned, he was very respectful and so chivalrous.
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I’m very partisan and I suppose in some ways I tried to resist liking him so much because, “Oh, he was a Tory”. But you couldn’t help it – you couldn’t help but love him, he was absolutely infectious.
The similarities with Jo are crazy, it was almost at the same time of day and the air ambulance landing…
I don’t think the news of David’s death has gone in.
It begs a lot of questions about the security of MPs. I don’t think anybody wants armed police to be standing outside MPs’ surgeries but that said, we can’t go on like this.
I was speaking to an MP’s staffer this afternoon and they told me they have spoken to the police this week about a threat their MP has received. I’m devastated that this has happened again, it’s hard to believe it’s real.
I’m struggling to come to terms with it. I’m angry – really, really angry.
What right has anybody got? Stabbing him in a church… David was a devout Catholic, which somehow makes it even worse.
I will just remember his kindness and the fun that we had and how we laughed together.
I loved him.