Dozens of MPs have opened up about the often frightening and bizarre experiences of receiving death threats as they paid tribute to Sir David Amess in the wake of the Conservative backbencher’s murder on Friday.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab spoke of having received at least three threats on “life and limb” in the past two years, with the latest being of an acid attack.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Chris Bryant revealed today that a man has been arrested over a threat on his life after the MP for Southend West was killed while meeting constituents in Essex.
The killing of the veteran parliamentarian at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday has led to fresh scrutiny over the security of MPs.
Just a day later, Bryant said he received a death threat after returning from Qatar where he has been investigating the situation faced by refugees from Afghanistan.
“I got back on Saturday and the first message in my inbox was this death threat, pretty clear, so I notified the police and they have taken action,” he said.
Abuse in British politics
Bryant stressed that abuse in British politics has risen in recent years, particularly over Brexit and from anti-vaccine protesters who he said had targeted his Rhondda constituency office in the last year.
A South Wales Police spokeswoman said a 76-year-old man from Bridgend was arrested on suspicion of malicious communications after the threat levelled at the Labour MP.
Raab said colleagues – particularly women – have received “worse abuse” than himself but that he has been the victim of three recent threats that required “intervention”.
I have had three threats to life and limb over the last two years.Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab
He told ITV that the most recent was “someone threatening to throw acid over me”.
While recognising the need for security, many MPs have been careful to warn against allowing the attack on Sir David to create detachment from their constituents.
Raab said having plain-clothes police officers on the doors of surgeries with constituents could have a “chilling effect”, but he would understand if colleagues decided otherwise.
“We don’t let the terrorists win by creating wedges or walls between us and those who vote us in,” he told Sky News.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle called for fresh understanding of how politics can be made safer, but discussed the extensive protections of his US counterpart as he warned against a “knee-jerk reaction”.
“Do I want to be like Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi, who can’t go anywhere without armed police? Is that a life I want? No,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Sir David’s killing was the second murder of an MP within five years, after Labour’s Jo Cox was targeted by a right-wing extremist outside a West Yorkshire library where she was due to hold a constituency surgery.
Her widower, Brendan Cox, warned supporters from across the political spectrum against a “celebration of political segregation”.
I think that is absolutely something that we have to challenge. And linked to that we have to stop dehumanising our opponents.Brendan Cox
His family said their “hearts are shattered” by the killing of their “strong and courageous” father.
“So, we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness,” they said in a statement.
A 25-year-old man, understood to be Ali Harbi Ali, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of Sir David’s murder and remains in police custody.
He has been detained under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and detectives are expected to continue to question him until Friday after a warrant of further detention was granted.