Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Philips on Sunday, Home Secretary Priti Patel stressed the need for further MP protection at constituency surgeries in light of Sir David Amess’ murder. This is ‘‘about safeguarding our democracy”, Patel said.
At a time when the link between constituency and MP is under question, Patel insisted that Sir David’s murder should not undermine the relationship, which remains the “very essence of our democracy”. Sir David, 69, was stabbed multiple times while holding meetings with the public in his constituency of Southend West.
The vast majority of MPs do not get close protection while in their constituencies, and although security was increased following Jo Cox’s killing to include panic buttons, extra lighting, extra CCTV, additional locks and emergency fobs at constituency offices, many are calling for further measures.
Speaking to Sky News, the Home Secretary listed possible practical changes to MP security, including a move to booked appointments to allow for constituents to be vetted. Patel also cited measures like “checking the locations in advance that you are going to, making sure that you are not on your own”.
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Sir David’s death has sparked a robust debate about MPs’ safety, and Patel’s comments come as deep divisions emerge about the way to proceed.
Prominent backbenchers Tobias Ellwood and Sir Bernard Jenkin have recommended that constituency meetings be paused. Veteran Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin has said it is time to switch to online video conferencing, referring to the financial burden created by an increased police presence at in-person constituency meetings.
Chief constables are due to report back to Patel shortly to help identify gaps in security measures at constituency meetings. But it is not believed that any full security package will be finalised in time for Monday when Patel is due to make a statement to the Commons.Yesterday, police forces contacted all 650 MPs following Sir David’s death to offer and support.
Patel was also questioned about the perpetrator and reports that he had already been flagged to counter-extremism officials. But Patel refused to commit to a beefed-up review of the counter-terrorism ‘Prevent’ programme. She insisted there is a “complex landscape” surrounding radicalisation.
As for the issue of civility in politics, which Speaker Hoyle issued a renewed call for in the aftermath of Sir David’s murder, Patel pointed to the growing abuse faced by MPs both in-person and on social media. While stressing the need for “robust debate”, Patel insisted: “decency matters and respect matters”
The Home Secretary also refused to rule out reviewing social media anonymity to help curb online abuse.