UK Politics

Commons full of amateurs since Thatcher - David Amess

The House of Commons is no longer "full of giants" but a "chamber of amateurs", a Conservative MP has claimed as he paid tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher.

David Amess, an MP since 1983, said that when first entering Parliament he had been "in awe of everyone", but this was no longer true.

He praised Baroness Thatcher, who died in April, for allowing people to become "upwardly mobile".

No Labour MPs attended the debate.

Mr Amess, who represents Southend West, said the East End of London, where he had grown up, was now "unrecognisable" from that of his youth.

'Not a criticism'

He said Baroness Thatcher, in Downing Street from 1979 to 1990, had given people "the opportunity to be upwardly mobile".

Mr Amess also defended her from criticism, delivering an apparent swipe at Tony Blair by arguing that, "unlike some leaders who are no longer in this House", she had not been a "warmonger".

During the short debate, he commented on the quality of his colleagues.

Mr Amess said: "This isn't a criticism, so please don't take offence of it.

"In those days [under Baroness Thatcher] the chamber was full of giants. I was in awe of everyone. With 30 years on, I'm not in awe of anyone. I feel this is now a chamber of amateurs."

In mitigation, he added that he did not mean this "in a nasty sense", saying: "I mean it in the sense of the way we are now. You have to look to the other place [House of Lords] for real experts. We are all sent here, however articulate we are or not, as equals."

Mr Amess revealed he had heard that Baroness Thatcher had died while visiting his "aspiring actress" daughter in Hollywood.

"When she knocked on the door of my bedroom and broke the news that Margaret Thatcher had died, being an actress I didn't initially believe what she had to say," he said.

The former prime minister died following a stroke on 8 April, aged 87.