The speech made by Stephen Timms, the Labour MP for East Ham, in the House of Commons on 18 October 2021.
We have rightly been reminded of David’s enthusiastic advocacy for the constituencies that he represented, but he was also an enthusiast for the London Borough of Newham, where he was born and grew up; where he attended the excellent St Bonaventure’s Catholic school, which he stayed in touch with for the rest of his life; where he supported West Ham United football club; and where his mother lived until her death five years ago, as we have been reminded, at the age of 104. I heard over the weekend from somebody who was in the sixth form at St Bonaventure’s with David but who, unlike David, supported the Labour party. He told me that the politics teacher, Mr Cunningham, predicted that David was going to be a Conservative MP. He also told me that in a period when he was not able to attend quite a lot of the politics lessons, David very carefully wrote out all of his notes so that his friend could copy those notes afterwards. Kindness was evident at that early stage as well.
David stood for election to the council in Newham in 1974 and 1978 and for Parliament in Newham North West in 1979, before finding more promising opportunities further east, but notwithstanding party differences, his supportive interest in Newham remained. As council leader from 1990, I pressed the Conservative Government to bring the channel tunnel rail link through a station in Stratford. David was our unwavering ally on the Government side. Singlehandedly, he made the campaign cross-party, and that was crucial to its success, leading to London 2012 and the regeneration that is under way at the moment.
Of course, David was not initially seen as a friend by my Newham Council colleagues, who have not seen a Conservative elected for 30 years. We all remembered David dashing our 1992 general election hopes by holding Basildon, but we invited him to our town hall celebration when the Stratford campaign succeeded. I was not quite sure how that was going to go, but David won over everybody with a beautifully judged speech. Newham has lost a great friend.
David was accessible to his constituents. Tragically, he has now given his life. We will rightly reflect on what more we can do to stop that happening again—I wonder if we might ask the police to review our appointment lists ahead of each surgery, for example—but we must not give up on the accessibility of Members of Parliament. If we do, the sponsors of those who attacked David and who attacked me will have succeeded. That must not happen.