He served the Essex coastal town for the last 24 years, securing a comfortable 14,000 seat majority in the 2019 election, extending the Tories’ grip on a constituency it has controlled since the Second World War.
Described by colleagues and friends as kind, committed and gentle he was known for his strong views on animal welfare. In his last contribution in the House of Commons on 23 September – before the autumn conference recess – he renewed calls for a parliamentary debate on the issue.
He also held strong anti-abortion views and campaigned relentlessly for Southend to be granted City status.
An ardent Brexiteer, he sat on the right wing of the Conservative party and was a vocal supporter of the Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum. On the eve of the UK’s exit from the EU single market on December 31 last year, Sir David tweeted a picture of a cardboard cutout of Thatcher, proclaiming she would be rejoicing in heaven.
Born in Plaistow in London’s East End in 1952, Sir David had a modest upbringing and was raised as a Roman Catholic, attending St. Bonaventure Grammar School in Forest Gate, before studying Economics and Government at then Bournemouth College of Technology.
He briefly taught at a school in Bethnal Green and worked as an underwriter before becoming a recruitment consultant.
However, after spending much of the 1970s in the private sector he soon began pursuing his political career, first standing as a candidate in the Labour safe seat of Newham North West in 1979, before successfully being elected in Basildon four years later.
He never became a Minister but during Thatcher’s years in power and then later in the John Major administration he served as an assistant – or PPS – to Edwina Currie and then Michael Portillo in a number of Government departments including Transport and the Treasury.
But after Tony Blair swept to power in 1997 he settled into a life as a respected backbench MP pursuing his areas of interest and expertise and chairing an eclectic array of all party parliamentary groups, including ones for endometriosis, fairs and showgrounds and fire safety.
He is survived by his wife Julia Arnold, with whom he had five children – four daughters and a son.