Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

British Lawmaker David Amess Dies In Stabbing Attack; U.K. Home Secretary Asks Police To Review MPs' Security; U.S. Lawmakers Pressure Biden To Toughen Up On Beijing; Late To The Game: China Blasts Ahead For Place In Space. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 15, 2021 - 16:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): And good evening. I am Paula Newton at the CNN Center in Atlanta and we get right to our breaking news.

Slain British Parliament member Sir David Amess is being remembered at this hour as, quote, "one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics."

The long time Conservative lawmaker was fatally stabbed today as he met with constituents in a church east of London. The U.K.'s counterterrorism task force is leading this investigation. A 25-year- old man is now under arrest on suspicion of murder.

Police say they have retrieved the knife they believe was used in the killing. The attacker's motive, we should say, so far, remains unclear. Amess was first elected to Parliament in 1983 and he was knighted by the queen in 2015 for his political and public service.

Police in Essex gave an update just a few hours ago. They said while the investigation was in its early stages, they were keeping a open mind about the motive.


BEN-JULIAN HARRINGTON, CHIEF CONSTABLE, ESSEX POLICE: The investigation is in its very early stages. And it's being led by officers from the specialist counterterrorism (INAUDIBLE).

We made it clear at the time of the incident that we did not believe there was any immediate further threat to anyone else in the area. It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this is a terrorist incident. But, as always, they will keep an open mind.


NEWTON: Nic Robertson is where this attack happened. Nic, I appreciate you being here really to kind of go through first

and foremost, the shock and revulsion. It's profound, universal and we will get to that reaction. First to police, though. Certainly this was a gruesome attack.

What more are they saying, beyond the fact that they still don't have a motive?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Essentially just the speed with which it happened. They said they got a call just about five minutes past noon today. Within minutes, they were on the scene.

But when they arrived they found that Sir David Amess had been stabbed multiple times and the emergency services were just not able to sustain his life and keep him alive. And he died on the scene.

So I think there's the speed with which it happened. And I think obviously the other part now is the investigation around the person, who the police now have in custody, this 25-year-old man.

They appear to have the murder weapon, the knife; significant perhaps that the counterterrorism command is taking the lead on the investigation, although, as the police say, they will be led by the investigation. They're not prejudging any of the issues here at the moment.

Certainly, the appearance at the moment is that obviously there would be a concern, that this might involve the need to bring in such a highly specialized and technical group of police, like the counterterrorism command, who can make determinations about whether or not there was a terrorist intent involved behind this.

But it certainly is raising concerns and shock, when compared to the last time a British MP was killed, a sitting MP, Jo Cox, five years ago in Yorkshire. It was a right wing radical, if you will, who shot and stabbed her to death.

So when the police begin their investigation, all of these thoughts will be ahead of them as they plow through the details.

NEWTON: That gruesome attack still on so many minds. Chilling to think that this has now happened just five years later.

So many politicians of all stripes were stricken by grief. What affected me was hearing so many of them at a loss for words to comprehend this. Clearly, the entire country is in mourning now.

ROBERTSON: The prime minster spoke of the kindest, nicest and most gentle politician, 69 years old, an MP for more than half of his life. And he didn't spend that time trying to get to the top of the Conservative Party; more trying to get to the bottom of his constituency and help them.

One of the constituents we spoke to today expressed her shock at what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone was just speechless. It was just awful. It was just -- he's such a kind, gentle soul, witty, quite quirky and liked people. It was just shocking. Absolutely shocking.



ROBERTSON: And this lady told us that her son was interested in working in Parliament and he had offered to take her son around and show him, you know, the place, to get him acquainted with it.

This MP, this helper of the community here, was loved by people here, it seems, because he did just that -- he helped them. He went above and beyond in some cases. There's a message on those floral tributes just to the side of me here, from the Surfers against Sewage. This is a coastal community, a lot of surfers here.

Not a group typically you would associate with Conservative politicians. But clearly he had done things to help them. He was known for his love of animals, known for his love of the environment.

But a traditional Conservative MP in many respects yet willing to be on the fringes of the party when it came to fox hunting. Many Conservative MPs support fox hunting. He didn't. So this was a man who really did, as I say, try to get to the bottom of the community and help them with their issues. And that's what he died doing today.

NEWTON: Yes, it's, so shocking when you think about it. This man was so immersed in local politics, which as both you and I know, is neither glamorous or privileged. Nic, I appreciate you on this story and we'll continue to have more in the coming hours.

Meantime, Boris Johnson is among many in Britain and beyond, offering tributes to Sir David Amess. Mr. Johnson says the nation has lost a fine public servant and a good friend.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Well, 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.

The reason I think so many people are shocked and saddened is, above all, he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.

And he also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.

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.


NEWTON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson there. Now Conservative councillor Sir David Garston joins me now on the phone from Southend- on-Sea. He is a long-time colleague of Sir David.

Mr. Garston, first, condolences to you and yours. I really can't comprehend what it was like to receive this news. I'm sure you want to honor your friend.

What do you want people to know about Sir Amess and his life and career as a public servant?

DAVID GARSTON, COUNCILLOR, SOUTHEND-ON-SEA: When you say, what do you want people to know, the people of Southend really do know, because David has been part of the community all the time.

Whatever function was going on, David was able to be there. He made it his point to being there. He was into everything.

And, of course, it's good for the people worldwide to know what a great servant we've lost in David Amess. I knew him from 1983, when he was elected for the member of Parliament to Battleton (ph). I was mayor of Southend at the time and there was a reception for newly elected MPs.

And David came along and I was introduced to him and the other MPs. And I got to know him. Of course, on boundary change, he came over the Southend West. I was living in Southend East at the time, representing a ward in that constituency.

I moved five years ago to become one of Sir David's MPs. And, the way Sir David has worked with us, if we have problems in the ward, we can call Sir David in and, likewise, if David picked up a problem from his surgery that was council related he would ask us to get involved as well.

I mean, there was so much about Sir David. He lost his mother not so long ago, who was over 100. And he had for some time been putting on parties for people in the town, not just in this constituency but in the town, who were over 100. And he loved that.


GARSTON: He loved animals. He was devastated when he lost his dogs. And then fortunately he got another dog. But the man was -- when he walked into the room, the whole room lit up. It was everybody but everybody was fond of him.

Now the murder, this tragic murder, took place in Belfairs ward, I'm currently in that ward just around the corner from the church, sitting with a former councillor for that ward. And she loved Sir David as much as we all do. And he's going to be

impossible to follow. There's no doubt about that. He's probably one of the best constituency MPs in the whole of Great Britain.

NEWTON: And many people would say that that is a statement that really resonates with so many people in the constituency that you're in right now. Sir David was devoted, certainly, to those constituents, as you've just outlined.

You are an MP now as well.

What do you say to the people that you represent and to Britain, really as a whole, about how you feel you need to now reevaluate your work, your life and whether or not there is a security threat there?

GARSTON: Well, of course, the problem is that when you go into public life, as Sir David did, as I've done as a long-time councillor, you are representing the people that put their faith in you. So to say, I'm awfully sorry but it's too dangerous now to interact with you, I have to say, I think there are two levels.

I think members of Parliament, most definitely, they've all got good staff. They need to be sharing the MPs' diary with the police to make sure, when they're out there and vulnerable, they've got security.

I think from councillors' points of view, much as I would like to have more security, what we do in Pricklevale (ph) ward, we make sure there's at least two if not three of us when we go out.

Because 99.9 percent of the public, even if they are not of our political persuasion, they're fine and they very often want to talk to you and put problems your way, et cetera, let you know their views.

In Southend at the moment, we've got some very major issues coming up that will affect the town, including the football club and all sorts of things, a huge new housing development. And people have views on it one way or the other.

And we need to be accessible to the public to get that view. But certainly security -- I remember in your country, Donald Trump said, well, we've got problems with guns. In England, you have got problems with knives.

We really have and this has got to be stamped out. It's got to be dealt with, frankly. But what you can't get rid of is democracy. You can't make elected representatives away from the people, because the people will lose faith. The people will -- they've lost faith anyway, many of them, because, in our country, you'll find that perhaps you get 60 percent polled in a general election, 30 percent polled in a local election.

I'm elected on just over 30 percent, which means all the rest of the people I represent didn't bother. And that's sad. You take the elected representatives further away, then you're going to make people be more turned off to politicians. So it's a very, very difficult problem. NEWTON: And a difficult balance there to really strike. We appreciate

the challenges ahead for all of you. Again, my condolences to you and yours and our thoughts as well with Sir David's staff at this point.


GARSTON: Of course, I'll make sure that they receive that.

NEWTON: We are thinking of them as well. It must have been so shocking. Again, we thank you for your words, as we continue to follow the story.

Coming up here for us, remembering Sir David Amess, a lawmaker known for his kindness, whose friendships spanned a political divide.





NEWTON: We are back with our breaking news. Flags across Parliament have been lowered to half-staff following the killing of Sir David Amess. Fellow lawmakers are remembering Amess' deep passion for his work and his consistency despite what were, at times, frequent security concerns.

Earlier our Richard Quest spoke with House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsey Hoyle about the situation.


LINDSAY HOYLE, SPEAKER, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS: His family and friends -- and we were all friends with David. We were all reeling with shock and horror at what's happened. Here we have an MP, killed, carrying out his duties.

David was the nicest and kindest of MPs, a senior politician in the House of Commons who was well loved on all sides. His love of animals, the love of Southend, wanted to make Southend a city. Everybody knew David. As I say, a nice, a gentle person who was well loved and well liked.

And I've got to say, there is a void, a major void in the House now, that this is a person who loved his job being an MP. Not only did he love being an MP, he loved serving his constituents. Hence why he was meeting his constituents when he was killed, carrying out the job he loved so much.

And it is real shock that we're all suffering at this stage. It is shock of colleagues right across the house. The one thing that unites us is the fight that we believe in democracy. We believe in values that people may not agree with, the one thing that we will do is stand together, united we will be in support of democracy. RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: I understand the last thing people like you

want is layers of security that get between you and the voters. But surely now, Mr. Speaker, you have to rethink root and branch the security offered to back bench MPs, senior MPs like David.

HOYLE: What I would say is I've just had my surgery tonight with my constituents. I checked with my staff. They were happy to do so. The staff said, no, the people expect to see you. We want to be there for the people and that's why I carried out.

And that's why I didn't shrink away, far from it. I wanted to stand up there, because I know that's what David was doing and I wanted to carry out my duty of meeting my constituents.

Because in the end, people will not stop the values that we hold dearly. They will not stop democracy. And I will show that democracy will survive.

But you're quite right. I take a very strong line but I've also got a duty of care to politicians within Westminster, their families, their staff and the staff of the house. They matter to me.

And, of course, (INAUDIBLE) what we've got to do is get the details, gather the information and do the right thing to carry out the security that's needed, the measures that's needed, that allow MPs to carry out their duties.


HOYLE: And what we've got to show that people can become an MP in the future. We must not let them be put off. We must support democracy. And we must fight evil. And this has been an evil day when somebody like sir David has died carrying out the job he loved.

QUEST: Should he have had security?

Should he have had police security?

You have it on certain occasions, sir. As the Speaker, you have it much of the time.

Is it now time to give armed protection or even unarmed police officer protection to ordinary back bench MPs?

HOYLE: Let me say to you now and I will never discuss it in a forum to say what security measures we do, what we will be doing. It's the one thing we don't discuss openly; quite rightly, it would be wrong of me to do so.

But I will say we take it seriously, we continue to review but I won't be drawn on what measures take place, what measures have taken place. But neither of us know the circumstances yet.

I need to know the circumstances to make an informed decision of what we do next. Let's get the information. Let's not knee jerk. Let's get it right. What I would say is, we're all reeling from what's happened. It's the support and the arm around colleagues that we've got to do now.

And there's a saying -- this is about David's family. This is about the sympathy to him and his friends. We're all his friends, so we're all in shock. I'm not going into a discussion on security.

QUEST: I just want to finish on this question of shock. I'm reading the various comments that people have said. The thing that's striking me -- I'm just looking down now -- Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition, "David has a profound sense of public duty."

Brendan Cox -- "Thoughts and love are with David's family."

The political spectrum has come together tonight, Mr. Speaker. And what's coming clear to those of us who didn't know Sir David or know him well, is politics doesn't matter tonight.

HOYLE: It doesn't. It unites us. Politics is united in our grief, our sadness and our sorrow and that's the one thing that must happen. We must stand firm and we must stand shoulder to shoulder. We may have political differences. But the one thing we believe in is democracy and that must always survive.


NEWTON: Speaker of the House of Commons there, saying that they are all united on what he calls an evil day.

I want to get more now on the government reaction. Cyril Vanier is at Downing Street this hour.

It was hard not to miss the ashen-faced Boris Johnson, who normally does not have that kind of disposition. Yet there's been cross-party support for democracy. It's been uplifting to see. But also what seems to me very authentic shows of support for the entire House of Commons at this point and the MPs and what they're risking now.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. The tributes that came in all felt very authentic. Naturally, you would expect, given the tragic happenings of the day, you would expect positive things to be said about Sir David Amess.

But in this particular case, it did appear that he had managed to strike a chord with so many people in parliamentary life, MPs and beyond, the government, Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson saying that he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics. And that was a common thread in the tributes that came in, "a lovely, lovely man," is how he was described by the U.K. foreign secretary.

"Hugely kind and good," by Carrie Johnson, Boris Johnson's wife.

"One of life's truly nice people. Always ready to give his help," by Brandon Lewis, secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

So it does clearly appear tonight that one of the central components of the legacy of Sir David will be, beyond the laws he helped pass and the policies he advocated, will really be the way he conducted himself during his life and his time in public office and his generosity of spirit.

NEWTON: Those bipartisan relationships didn't seem to be token. They seemed to be heartfelt.

I want to ask you, just to continue now on the issue of security for MPs and beyond. Priti Patel, the home secretary, she tweeted, "Questions are rightly being asked about the safety of our country's elected representatives and I'll provide updates in due course."

We have already had people speak about this for hours. You can't bubble up politicians and protect them.


NEWTON: Because it really does diminish democracy at that point.

Given the fact that they have had a few incidents now in the U.K., is there already an understanding that there's only so much that can be done?

VANIER: Well, I think there's an understanding of two things. On the one hand, something is going to have to change. And I think everybody here can agree on that because two lawmakers killed in the space of five years, that is completely abnormal.

So there's a failing somewhere in the security protocol, the security apparatus. And it's just not good enough. That is just not acceptable.

But on the other hand, to your point, you can't completely wall off lawmakers from the voters that they legitimately should be interacting with on a regular basis. And that is the whole point of what's known as surgeries, these moments, normally on a weekly basis, where voters can see their MPs, air their concerns, their grievances.

That has to continue to happen, because that is built in the fabric of democracy. And I'm glad you framed the question the way you did, because I think it's one of the things that we need to explain to our viewers.

So many problems -- reflexively we want a solution, we want an answer. But so many problems are more about managing risk than cancelling the risk. This is one of those problems. Yes, I believe U.K. government this evening and going forward will want to do more, more in terms of security.

But there is also an understanding that you're never going to be able to completely insulate -- nor should you -- lawmakers from their constituents.

NEWTON: It will take a nuanced approach going forward.

The question is, how do they go forward?

We'll hear more about that in the coming days. Cyril Vanier at Downing Street. Appreciate it.

Moving on to another story, the man accused of killing five people in Norway with a bow and arrow has been charged with five counts of murder. The suspect, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, is not disputing what happened. CNN's Melissa Bell has the latest.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A chilling warning posted to Facebook in 2017.


BELL (voice-over): Espen Andersen Brathen, saying those who wanted to make amends still could.

Fast forward four years and Wednesday night, just after 6 pm, Brathen, a Danish and Muslim convert, began his rampage here inside the supermarket. An off duty police officer was wounded before he went off, carrying a bow, his arrows and two other weapons, although police will not say what kind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's tired and mentally ill. So he can't be doing more now. so he's in an institution with police.

BELL (voice-over): Shortly after leaving the supermarket, Brathen was intercepted by police but escaped after shooting arrows in their direction. Only after that did the killings begin.

BELL: It was on this street more than half an hour after his rampage began that Brathen was finally apprehended. He's now been charged with five counts of murder.

BELL (voice-over): Brathen who was known to authorities for his radicalization, has now been sections in a secure health care unit. There is much that is idyllic about Kongsberg, a quiet, affluent suburban town, just over 50 miles outside of Oslo.

And in this town, where everyone pretty much knows everyone else, people are now waiting for those killed on Wednesday to be officially identified.

TORIE ERHTEN (PH), LONGSBERG RESIDENT: It's surrealistic. Yes. We live in a safe, small community and it's hard to believe that someone can be so disturbed.

BELL: But that shock and grief is being felt well beyond the limits of this town. As the Norwegian king, King Harald put it, Norway is a pretty small country and when Kongsberg is hit, the entire nation is with it -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Kongsberg.


NEWTON: From constituents to lawmakers to the bells of Westminster, tributes are coming in for the slain British Parliament member, David Amess. Coming up, we'll many more of them and a look at the discussions already underway at this hour to try to beef up security for Britain's lawmakers.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

NEWTON: We continue to follow the breaking news here. I'm Paula Newton.

Flags are flying at half-staff across the British capital tonight, mourning the death of Sir David Amess. He was an MP and he was killed in his home constituency earlier this afternoon after being stabbed multiple times.

Sir David was known for his work on animal welfare. He was killed while holding his regular meetings with constituents, something he called a great British tradition. CNN's Nic Robertson has more on a dark day in British political history.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Known as a kind and gentle man, 69-year-old Sir David Amess had been a member of Parliament for more than half his life, his brutal killing shocking the nation, from the prime minster --

JOHNSON: All our hearts are full of shock and sadness.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- Amess' constituents --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just awful. He's such a kind, gentle soul.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- Amess died while help his community, meeting face-to-face with voters, a so-called constituency surgery, answering queries, solving problems, listening to gripes.

ROBERTSON: Police say they received a call about a stabbing around noon. They were on the scene at the church within minutes but they say Amess had been stabbed multiple times and the emergency services couldn't save him.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A knife was found at the scene and a 25-year- old man arrested. Police say they are not looking for anyone else at this time.

HARRINGTON: The investigation is in its very early stages and it's being led by officers from the specialist counterterrorism command.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): His killing is the first of a sitting MP since Labour's Jo Cox was shot and stabbed by a man with extreme right wing views five years ago. From across the political spectrum and beyond, the outpouring of

affection for Amess, a traditional Conservative with a love of animals and the environment, has been huge.

KEIR STARMER, U.K. LABOUR LEADER: He was much respected. He had that profound sense of duty, whilst driven by his faith. And that's why, across the parties, across Parliament, he was so respected and so liked. And there's a very profound sense of loss, I think, across politics, across faith and up and down the country.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He leaves a wife and five children.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Sir David Amess dead at 69.


NEWTON: And we are now joined by our Nick Paton Walsh, who's been following the investigation.

They had said, you saw on Nic's report, that this is being led by the counterterrorism unit.

Yet, how much do we know?

How much has been disclosed about the 25-year-old subject?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Very little. And while leading police, while saying this is being handled by the counterterrorism teams, do also say they are keeping, quote, "an open mind."

Of course with a high profile political murder like this, it is highly likely you'd get counterterrorism officers with their intense expertise involved from the beginning, rather than later discover you had been dealing with terrorism and wish you had their involvement from the start.

It does appear we are leaning toward this possibly being perceived as an act of terrorism but we are now a good solid nine hours since this suspect has been in police custody. And we haven't had an outright declaration from police.

They consider this to be a terrorism-related offense and none of the charges or arrests, articles around the arrest have mentioned terrorism. So there's some possible degree of uncertainty at this stage.

And, of course, that will be feeding into discussion of the motivation, whether or not this individual is part of an ideology, whether a lot of the crimes of late that have been interrupted in the U.K., a third since 2017, have been far right extremists as well.

There's a lot here potentially riding on what the perceived motivation was. It's important to note the 25-year-old man appeared to have been arrested at the scene by police when they arrived there.

Not at this stage does it appear he necessarily tried to flee. We don't know the full details. More details will surely come out and they will inform the kind of response that British political life has, whether they see this to be terrorism, a lone extremist or even somebody with their own grievance or difficulties, acting on it in a particularly barbaric and savage way.

NEWTON: How difficult has it been -- U.K. counterterrorism forces have been at this for a long time, principally since 2005, when they started the prevent strategy. We have now had several incidents.

What will they bring to bear when they look at the security architecture for people in the U.K., those involved in politics?

WALSH: Well, it's incredibly hard if you're now dealing with the possibility of one individual who may not be entirely well, being influenced online by ideas he's read, and then choosing to attack a defenseless member of Parliament in an open public meeting like this was.

There's not much you can necessarily do, because they don't give away signs of planning or plotting in the hours or weeks ahead of the attack.

We have seen that in many separate attacks over the years in the U.K., that the absence of preplanning or instructions from outside the country or from a broader part of a hierarchy does make it hard for intelligence services to interrupt these attacks.

So we have sadly seen the acceptance that, when you're dealing with lone individuals, it's hard to stop them and it's become, not part of life but something people accept may occur, revolting as it is.

We don't know much about this individual, if like the murderer of Jo Cox, they glorified Nazis and were far right extremists or if they hailed from another part of extremist fringes of ideologies here in the U.K.

Or we don't know if this was motivated by something entirely apolitical. Many questions certainly but they'll all inform the response of the U.K. The senior law enforcement official here, the home secretary Priti Patel has already said they'll be reviewing security for MPs.

They're asking police forces to do that and then come up with recommendations but that, of course, will be informed by the nature of this threat.

If it turns out, again, that it is some form of extremist ideology fueling this murder, then there will, of course, be calls to combat that and find a way to keep MPs safe.

If we are dealing with a divisive political rhetoric, perhaps fueled by social media, that makes the possibility of these crimes more regular. We don't know at this stage. This question is furiously being asked by MPs, worried about their safety. So many of them have dealt with online threats, online abuse, awful racist abuse against some MPs.

One of the men, David Lammy, an opposition cabinet member, shadow cabinet member, today has been regularly abused online on Twitter and today came out with nothing but generous praise to talk about Sir David Amess but a man himself who's been the subject of so much abuse.

It's frighteningly common here, people using social media to say things they would never dare say to somebody's face. That's a new, shocking part of the British political spectrum here.


WALSH: But the violence is relatively rare. I think many will be trying to work out what the proportionate response to this is and if they'll perhaps be giving concessions to those who use violence if they allow to impede too much Britain's democratic life, which Sir David Amess was simply being a vital, integral part of as he met his constituents and was murdered today.

NEWTON: He was doing something for him that was completely routine. I'm glad you brought up the atmosphere on the internet and social media because it's something so many people have been talking about today.

We will have much more to come on our breaking news, as people in England pay tribute to British lawmaker Sir David Amess, honoring the man and his work in his community.




NEWTON: The U.K.'s counterterrorism command will lead the investigation into the murder of British lawmaker Sir David Amess. Police say it's too soon to say if this was a terrorist incident and made clear they didn't think they were any immediate threats to anyone else in the area.

Now this tragedy is reviving concern about politicians' safety. The former Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, told CNN's Richard Quest it's hard to know, really, how security for members of Parliament can be reformed, because a large part of the job means you do meet with constituents.


IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: When you look at polling, for example, when you ask the public here in the U.K., what do you think of politicians, we always fall somewhere down or below around state agents and nowadays bankers.

But right at the bottom of the heap. When you ask, however, a question and say, what do you think of your local member of Parliament, completely different reaction, even if they're not the ones you voted for.

By and large, they get a positive sense in that poll. And that's because, as a back bench, as a member of Parliament, your duty is to be in your constituency, seeing your constituents, doing surgeries, knocking on doors, seeing them in shops, talking to them, trying to be the kind of ombudsman on life for them.

When everything else in the bureaucracy has failed they come to you as a last resort. And we do all that and a lot of it face-to-face.


SMITH: And it's the bit that goes missing in the reporting. We report the rancor of debate and who's up and down in the grand sweep in jobs in ministerial office but we don't report what makes the oil of the engine, which is MPs on both sides, getting on.

And by the way, getting on with each other, too. We can be debating and angry about politics and belief. But behind the scenes, MPs from all sides of the house group together to battle for ideas and things that they think government has to do, whether it be gambling or as you said, right to life. We find our allies often across the floor.

QUEST: This question of security, which -- it's appropriate that we're talking about it with yourself, because you have been attacked, even recently, on a much lesser scale. You have faced physical attack, even as recent as this month at the Conservative Party conference.

Now, thank God, Sir Iain, it was not a major attack -- any form physical attack is major -- but it wasn't deadly or lethal. But it raises the question, does it not, about better security for you all?

SMITH: It's a funny one, this. It's very difficult to define. We are all public figures, some of us more than so. I was a leader of the opposition, also a high profile government secretary of state. So some of us are high profile. Others are not so well known.

But the reality is, for most of us in our daily lives as normal MPs, it's difficult to understand how security of any great overt sense would help. We can't really have protection wandering around, putting everybody off.

That would break the whole link, that umbilical cord that connects us next to our constituents. We need to be face-to-face with them. We need to let them in when they need to come in.

I think the area we could have protection, we do it on the offices. But when we often have surgeries, meeting people, booked appointments sometimes, we do it away from any particular security.

And that may be an area we'll have to look at, with police maybe being back in outside of those places, just to make sure that people coming in don't -- aren't carrying weapons. But other than that, with respect, it's difficult to know what more we

will do. I, for one, believe this most remarkable bond that exists between human beings, the constituents and the constituency MP, is what makes our political system work.

It's what -- I remember being driven in a taxi in a constituency once by a refugee, who had come in from Afghanistan. And I was chatting to him. His English was actually pretty good.

He said to me, "This is remarkable."

I said, "What?"

He said, "I'm driving you in the back of my taxi."

I said, "Why do you find that remarkable?"

He said, "In my country, nobody in your position would ever get into a taxi. They would driven by cars and they'd have protection and everything else."

He said, "I look at this, in this country, you're ordinary. You go in taxis, travel on foot and do things we wouldn't never expect elsewhere."

And that brought it home to me, this is the gem of our politics. And we can't lose it. I'm afraid we may have a bit more protection. But at the end of it all, we know what the risks are.


NEWTON: Calls it a gem of democracy to be able to be that close to his constituents.

Ahead here for us, a Chinese rocket lights up the night sky as it carries three astronauts to China's space station. We'll explain what they're going to be doing up there.





NEWTON: To Washington now: bipartisan lawmakers are pressing President Biden to get tougher on China -- and soon. Tensions between Taiwan and Beijing escalated sharply as China ramped up aggression against the self-ruled island.

For decades, the U.S. held to a policy of being vague about whether it would defend Taiwan if China attacked the island. But Beijing's recent actions have led some Biden administration officials and lawmakers to call for changing that stance. Meantime, three Chinese astronauts are set to dock at the country's

new space station in a couple hours. They blasted off earlier from the launch center in the Gobi Desert.

This will be China's longest manned mission at six months. They'll help build the station; the goal is to have it finished by the end of next year. CNN's David Culver has more on China's extraterrestrial ambitions.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ninety-year-old "Star Trek" actor William Shatner blasted into space, becoming the oldest man to reach such heights amid great fanfare in the U.S.


CULVER: Thousands of miles away, here in the Gobi Desert, China's latest space mission may not set any records but it does show a major step forward in this country's fast-growing and increasingly ambitious space plan.

CULVER (voice-over): CNN gaining rare access to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China. Guanzhou-13 carrying three Chinese astronauts to the soon to be completed space station, called Tiangong or Heavenly Palace.

China has touted their space station as next generation, an alternative to the International Space Station. But the 15-country ISS has already been occupied for more than 20 years. The U.S. passed a law barring China from participating, leading some experts to question --

PROF. DAVID BURBACH, U.S. NAVAL WAR COLLEGE: If we brought China in to work with us on ISS, would China have felt as compelled to develop their own fully independent program as quickly?

CULVER (voice-over): It's Hollywood coming to reality. Sandra Bullock spare during "Gravity," saved by a Chinese space station on her way back to Earth.

This woman told us in 2015 it's her favorite film. She's one of three Chinese astronauts on this mission. The mission also including a newcomer to space travel, who took part in cave training with astronauts from five countries in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I hope one day I can fly with other international astronauts in space and welcome them to visit China's space station.

CULVER (voice-over): But Western astronauts will need to study up first. These operation interfaces are in Chinese and Chinese state media reports European astronauts are already taking language courses so they can visit the Chinese space station.

Despite a late start in the space race, China is rapidly catching up. It has returned samples from the moon and, like the U.S., put a rover on Mars, all within the last year.

It's also got big plans for commercial ventures and for deep space exploration, including to build a base on the moon with Russia and send humans to Mars in the 2030s. From launching billionaires to cosmic explorations, the U.S. is still leading.


CULVER (voice-over): With plenty of headline-grabbing launches and a long history of success, putting 12 men on the moon. But the more pressing challenge: prioritizing the multibillions in funding needed for the U.S. to hold onto that lead.

Some experts believe the added competition from China might fuel more innovation.

BURBACH: If you're somebody who wants to see humans land on Mars and more scientific probes throughout the solar system, geopolitical competition is probably not the worst thing in the world.

CULVER (voice-over): While Captain Kirk is helping capture U.S. imaginations to propel the U.S. forward in its tightening space race, China's three astronauts now embarking on a six-month mission, the country's longest yet, to secure their footing out of this world -- David Culver, CNN, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China.


NEWTON: To Italy now, where thousands of workers are protesting the country's new mandatory green pass. Now port workers marched, saying the new rules are requiring them to show their COVID vaccination status, is, quote, "discrimination." This despite the fact that Italy has had an impressive uptick on vaccines.

And in polls an overwhelming majority of Italians say they prove of the vaccine mandate. Barbie Nadeau has more.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Italy has become the first Western democracy to mandate a government-issued health pass on COVID. Starting Friday, everyone who pulls a paycheck in the public and private sector have to pull a green pass to prove they're fully vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID test to go to work.

If they show up without it, they can be fined up to 1,500 euro. Employers who don't demand it face fines of 1,000 euro.

Most Italians are compliant. More than 80 percent of the population is vaccinated but not everyone is happy with the government playing such a role in health care. Some have taken to the streets to protest the mandate, violently smashing a labor union office last weekend and gathering here in Rome's Circus Maximus to make their voices heard -- Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: And we will return momentarily to our breaking news and that is the murder of Sir David Amess, a British lawmaker. He was attacked in a vicious way in his own constituency.

The Speaker of the House of Commons in Britain calling this an evil day and there are still tributes to this man pouring in from right around the world. We will cover it all at the top of the hour and we will have more news on the reaction. Stay with us. I'm Paula Newton at CNN Center.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

NEWTON (voice-over): And good evening. I'm Paula Newton at CNN Center. It is 10:00 p.m. in the United Kingdom, as the country mourns the loss of Sir David Amess.

Now there was an outpouring of emotional reactions from 10 Downing Street to Leigh by the Sea (sic), the Essex town Sir David represented for decades and where he was killed while meeting his constituents today. Nic Robertson is at the scene for us.

I would imagine there's still such grief and obviously utter shock. I think the thing chilling for me, is this really was a gruesome crime. He was stabbed multiple times and, despite the fact that first responders did their best to try to save him, he was pronounced dead a short time after. It seems to be difficult to comprehend at this moment in time.

ROBERTSON: And in a church and on such a quiet street as this one. I'm looking around. This is a very quiet, leafy, treed suburban neighborhood. It's not the sort of place where you would expect a real veteran MP, loved by his community, to meet his end.

And I think that goes some ways to explaining the real outpouring of grief that we're hearing.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Known as a kind and gentle man, 69-year-old Sir David Amess had been a member of Parliament for more than half his life, his brutal killing shocking the nation, from the prime minster --

JOHNSON: All our hearts are full of shock and sadness.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- Amess' constituents --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just awful. He's such a kind, gentle soul.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- Amess died while help his community, meeting face-to-face with voters, a so-called constituency surgery, answering queries, solving problems, listening to gripes. ROBERTSON: Police say they received a call about a stabbing around

noon. They were on the scene at the church within minutes but they say Amess had been stabbed multiple times and the emergency services couldn't save him.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A knife was found at the scene and a 25-year- old man arrested. Police say they are not looking for anyone else at this time.

HARRINGTON: The investigation is in its very early stages and it's being led by officers from the specialist counterterrorism command.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): His killing is the first of a sitting MP since Labour's Jo Cox was shot and stabbed by a man with extreme right wing views five years ago.

From across the political spectrum and beyond, the outpouring of affection for Amess, a traditional Conservative with a love of animals and the environment, has been huge.

KEIR STARMER, U.K. LABOUR LEADER: He was much respected. He had that profound sense of duty, whilst driven by his faith. And that's why, across the parties, across Parliament, he was so respected and so liked. And there's a very profound sense of loss, I think, across politics, across faith and up and down the country.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He leaves a wife and five children. Sir David Amess dead at 69.


ROBERTSON: So we're just beginning to get the first details now of the man that the police detained, the 25-year-old they detained at the scene of the stabbing, the one suspect that they have in custody.


ROBERTSON: And they said they weren't immediately looking for anybody else at this time. We're being told he is a British national of Somali heritage. No other details at the moment.

We know the counterterrorism command are leading the investigation. We know the police said they will follow the investigation where it goes. Nothing is predetermined or preordained.

But clearly the police will now be looking into the background of this young man. As we would have expected they would have been doing already. But now we have this detail -- a British national of Somali heritage. That's the latest on the investigation we have.

NEWTON: Interesting they did release that detail. But they said, look, this is being led by counterterrorism officials but they're keeping a open mind.

Having said that, the home secretary did tweet this is obviously and rightfully going to open up a discussion about security. Nic, you have been at this a long time, looking at the situation of

counterterrorism in the U.K. There seem to be no easy answers, especially when it comes to what can only be described as a very intimate crime. It was one person with one weapon that, in an instant, transformed political discourse yet again.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely, the nature of the way that these open meetings take place, the fact that Sir David Amess and his constituency office had tweeted days in advance when this meeting would be, where it would be, what time for people to arrive, shows you the fact that anyone who wanted to come and meet him with malice aforethought would be able to plan, prepare, know where to be.

So it's questions like this that are fundamental to the British democracy, fundamental to the traditions here that many MPs willingly sign up to when they become MPs, because they know, when they get a chance to meet their constituents. So that's really going to strike at the heart of that discourse and that availability of MPs.

NEWTON: And a debate and discussion that will go on and there's time for that after mourning, which is going on in Britain. Nic, thank you.

Meantime, Westminster is united in grief. Former prime minster Theresa May, who still serves as a member of Parliament, said, "It was a tragic day for democracy. My thoughts and prayers are with David's family."

The foreign secretary Liz Truss said she was "devastated." She calls Sir David "a lovely man and a superb parliamentarian."

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said he was shocked by the news and offered his condolences on behalf of all Canadians and parliamentarians.

This is the second time a serving member of Britain's Parliament has been killed in just the past five years. In 2016, the Labour MP, Jo Cox, was brutally murdered by a far right extremist just days before the Brexit referendum.

Sir David went on to write about the incident, saying that members of Parliament have to regularly check their locks in the name of security.

Cyril Vanier is continuing to follow this us for us from Downing Street.

It was so sad to see Sir David get up there and talk about security threats and specifically talk about knife crime. But Theresa May, former prime minster, it was clear, even as prime minster, she held these open hours, these surgeries for constituents. It is part and parcel of the tradition of the democracy in Britain.

And yet here we are again, having to discuss, what could the security measures be and what do they represent?

VANIER: You're right to say it's part of the DNA of democracy in this country and not just in this country but in others as well. It's open democracy. It means the voters have to meet the people they vote for, right?

And those people can then better bring their concerns, voters' concerns into the Houses of Parliament, into the powers of circle -- the circles of power, beg your pardon, where those concerns need to be heard.

It's just the way democracy is supposed to work. The MPs are the interface between the voters and their constituents. And they need to be able to look them in the eye. They need to be able to sit down with them, need to be able to have unscripted moments with them and moments of real exchange.

And that is rubbing up against now the increased need for security of these lawmakers. There is absolutely no doubt, Paula, that things cannot stay exactly the way they have been, two lawmakers killed in five years.

Who's to say there's not going to be a third one if things stay the way they are?


VANIER: But what is the adequate level of security?

How do you protect 600-plus lawmakers -- because that what we're talking about here -- and still allow them to carry out their day-to- day work?

There's not an easy answer to this.

NEWTON: Cyril, we'll have to leave it there. Appreciate it, Cyril Vanier live from Downing Street.

As he points out, we have heard from many different politicians talking about the atmosphere online and otherwise and being concerned about how they move forward. Stay with CNN. We'll continue to watch this breaking news. But right now, after the break, Jake Tapper picks up the story with "THE LEAD."