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.”

Dudley South Conservative MP Mike Wood does not want police officers at surgeries which are either held at his office, Brierley Hill Market or ASDA cafe. He said: “I’m reluctant to have the police attend my surgeries, it would change the feel of the relationship between constituent and MP.”

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said: “No MP can be completely safe unless we cut ourselves off from our community completely.

“But I believe it is safer for MPs to conduct their surgeries by appointment – like seeing a GP - rather than publicising a venue.”

Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz said: “I would rather wait to see what recommendations they come up with before commenting on police being present at my surgeries.”

Halesowen and Rowley Regis Conservative MP James Morris said: “We do have to take our personal security a lot of consideration these days, a regrettable but inevitable part of the job, and I am also very mindful of my responsibilities for the safety of my staff.”

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