A Labour peer has called on the major opposition parties to ‘stand aside’ in the Southend West by-election out of respect for Sir David Amess after he was murdered serving his constituents.

Former minister Lord Pendry, who said he was on friendly terms with Sir David, said a decision not to contest the seat should be taken to ‘honour’ the Conservative MP.

He said: ‘This is an occasion when you see the leader of the Opposition (Sir Keir Starmer) and the Prime Minister together, and it shows that our democracy transcends all that sort of thing.

‘I think we should be saying that whoever the Conservatives put up, it is their seat because they were deprived of it, so they should have it back. I think all the major parties should stand aside in the interest of democracy and our own democratic way of life.’

It is understood that Labour will not be standing a candidate in the by-election.

The party is set to follow the principle established after Jo Cox’s murder in 2016, when the major parties declined to select candidates in the subsequent Batley and Spen by-election.

The Liberal Democrats have also confirmed they will not fight for the seat when a date is set.

Senior politicians from all political parties paid tribute to Sir David and flags on government buildings and outside Parliament were flown at half-mast.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sir David Amess was ‘one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics’.

Speaking on Friday evening, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think all our hearts are full of shock and sadness today at the loss of Sir David Amess MP, who was killed in his constituency surgery in a church after almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom.’

He added: ‘David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future.

‘And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague, and our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children, and his family.’

Sir Keir said it was a ‘dark and shocking day’, adding: ‘My heart goes out to David’s wife and children, his staff, friends and constituents.

‘This is a dark and shocking day. The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.’

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted: ‘This is tragic and horrible news. My thoughts are with David’s wife and children, the wider family, friends and David’s community.

‘A truly terrible day for British politics but most importantly of all our prayers are with all the people who loved David.’

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