Granting Southend-on-Sea city status would be a “wonderful tribute” to Sir David Amess, the Home Secretary has said.
Sir David, who died after being stabbed while meeting constituents on Friday, was a ceaseless campaigner for the Essex town on the Thames Estuary to be designated a city.
Priti Patel said on Sunday there will be “work in Government” on the prospect of realising Sir David’s long-running campaign.
Since Friday, a number of MPs and others have fondly recalled the Southend West MP’s energy for the cause, including the frequency with which he mentioned the campaign in the House of Commons.
Sir David even secured an adjournment debate on the subject in the Commons in December 2019.
He told the House during that debate: “I am not messing around.
“We have got it from the Prime Minister that Southend is going to become a city – and it will become a city.”
After the most recent Cabinet reshuffle in September, Sir David joked to the House that he was left disappointed not to be made “minister with responsibility for granting city status to Southend”.
Asked on the BBC One Andrew Marr’s Show whether the Government was likely to grant Southend city status, Ms Patel said: “It brings a smile to me and it warms our hearts because I think of his last PMQs, questions to the Prime Minister, I was in the chamber, it was about Southend.
“I know Southend as an Essex MP as well.
“Look, that’s not for me to say at all. There will be work in Government on that.”
Pushed on whether it could become a reality, Ms Patel continued: “All I will say is that when David’s name is mentioned going forward, he will bring great cheers and smiles to everybody because he was Mr Southend, Mr Essex – he would always put Southend front and centre of his work and that was David through and through.”
Asked on Times Radio if granting Southend city status would be the best tribute the nation could pay Sir David now, the Home Secretary Priti Patel again said the idea made her smile.
She said: “I’m smiling at that suggestion because David was just – you know I’ve said this so many times – a wonderful advocate.
“People will decide about that. But clearly… I think one of the last Prime Minister’s questions that he put forward, he was speaking exactly about that – it would be a wonderful tribute to my dear friend David.”
The MP for nearby Ilford North, Labour’s Wes Streeting, told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme that he “could think of no more fitting tribute” to the late MP than the campaign to grant Southend city status to be at the “top of the agenda”.