Police on guard for surgeries as MP security is stepped up

Police could be called in to guard MP surgeries to keep them safe following the murder of Sir David Amess at a constituency event.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said “protection” for MPs while they are holding talks with constituents was one of the options being considered under a “whole spectrum” of measures to address safety concerns in the wake of the Southend West MP’s killing on Friday.

It came as Labour shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy admitted she did not feel safe when going about her Wigan constituency and said she was not sure that the situation was “recoverable” for public servants, following the killing of two serving MPs in the past five years.

Conservative Sir David, 69, who had been an MP since 1983, was meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday afternoon when he was stabbed multiple times in a frenzied attack.

His death comes after the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016 as she was on her way to a constituency surgery.

Ms Patel said discussions were under way with MPs about extra measures that might be required, with each representative contacted by their local police force since the attack in Essex.

The Cabinet minister said options being considered included that “when you hold your surgeries, could you have officers or some kind of protection while you’re holding your surgery?”

MPs could also be asked to share their whereabouts at all times with the police in a bid to keep them free from harm, she said.

Asked if she would consider airport-style security, Ms Patel said: “That would be with the police and the House authorities. There are lots of things under consideration already.” Ms Patel was adamant that MPs should continue to be accessible to the public, despite the recent attacks and the barrage of threats they receive.

The Home Secretary said: “This should never ever break that link between an elected representative and their democratic role, responsibility and duty to the people who elected them.” Ms Patel said she did not believe the murder of Sir David Amess should change the relationship between MPs and their constituencies. She said many MPs would be “reflecting” upon their own constituency interactions and safety.

“My own view is no,” she said. “I’ve been a member of parliament for just over 10 years and we are part of the fabric, the DNA of society, our democracy, freedom, the chance for people to engage with us.

“But what I would say is that a lot has changed.”

Ms Patel said the murder of Jo Cox was an “intensive period” for MPs when it came to thinking about their own safety, adding: “We have all changed our ways of working because of changing concerns, threats in society.”

But she added: “This should never ever break that link between an elected representative and their democratic role, responsibility and duty to the people who elected them.”

Ms Patel noted that councillors as well as MPs regularly meet with the public. She said councillors are “out there every single day, to preserve and protect, you know that very essence of our democracy. We should, rightly, our elected representatives need to be able to go around with confidence - with confidence that they are safe and secure in the work they are doing.”

Craig Williams, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire since 2019, held a surgery in his constituency yesterday with police present to give him and members of the public reassurance. They were very reassuring,” said Mr Williams. “ I have been threatened but I think it goes with the job.”

Telford MP Lucy Allan said: “The police have been in contact to discuss security arrangements. I will be continuing with face to face constituency surgeries in the usual way.”

Daniel Kawczynski, the MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, believes one outcome of a review of security could be a sharing of best practice between MPs.

He added: “There are more and more reports of staff coming under increasingly threatening behaviour from across the country.” He added that his staff are now working from home most of the time and that members of the public book appointments which can be dealt with online and on the phone. He still holds constituency meetings.

Whether MPs would be able to continue to meet members of the public in future may depend on “how many more MPs get killed in the next 10 years,” he said.

“Sir David was the second MP to be murdered in five years. There have also been attacks on MPs.”

He added that all MPs will be contacted by police.

“I think there should be a platform for the sharing of best practice. There are 650 MPs and we shouldn’t be operating in silos. I am personally starting to learn more and more from other MPs and what they are doing to ensure maximum security for staff.

“This should precipitate a debate.”

As for his party colleague, Sir David Amess, he said: “David was an exemplary MP.”

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