‘Frightening’ threats to MPs must not break link with voters, says minister

Kwasi Kwarteng said he was shocked to see Michael Gove accosted by protesters in the street recently.

Michael Gove
Michael Gove

A minister has described as “quite frightening” the threats faced by politicians after a Cabinet colleague was surrounded by protesters just days after an MP was killed.

Footage emerged on Tuesday of Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove being surrounded by anti-lockdown protesters as he walked through Westminster.

The video footage, which is being examined by the Metropolitan Police, showed the demonstrators attempt to get close to Mr Gove before officers put themselves between the MP and protesters as they helped him make his way into a nearby building.

Amid jostling as officers attempted to keep demonstrators back from the entrance, a man appeared to shout “Arrest Michael Gove”.

One protester who approached Mr Gove asked him how he justified “illegal lockdowns”.

It came amid heightened concerns over the security of MPs following the fatal stabbing last week of Southend West MP Sir David Amess as he was meeting constituents.

On Wednesday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told members of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee that officers have spoken to all London MPs in the past few days to discuss security arrangements and their planned appointments.

She said: “We take the security of elected representatives extremely seriously. We do have a system in place to try to ensure that Members of Parliament receive the right advice and support around their security, and in the last few days I can tell you that we have spoken to all London MPs (to) discuss their security arrangements and their staff’s, and their upcoming appointments.”

But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said MPs could not be “put in a glass cage”.

On the incident involving Mr Gove, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: “I was very surprised to see that.

“David Amess was a friend of mine, very good person, very well regarded, and I was deeply shocked at what happened on Friday. But I was also surprised… to see Michael being assailed, if you like, by those protesters. I think it is quite frightening.”

Asked about the security arrangements around ministers and MPs, Mr Kwarteng said: “It’s been a very British way for ministers and MPs to be very accessible.

“I remember, before I was an MP, I’d be on the Underground and see MPs, sometimes even ministers, on the Tube, and we do have a very accessible culture.

“It’s a shame that given modern, recent developments, that we’ve had to have more protection. I mean, I remember a time when you could just walk into the House of Commons pretty much without any form of security check.

“We’ve changed as a society, it’s become more dangerous. But I think the link with the constituents, with voters, our electorate is really important and I wouldn’t want to see that in any way diminished or us as MPs, as politicians, sort of put in a glass cage, separated from voters.”

On Wednesday the mother of Mr Gove’s children, Sarah Vine, wrote in her column in the Daily Mail about the harassment the family have faced.

Ms Vine described feeling “under siege, in constant fear of attack”, and wrote: “As a family, we’ve had so much abuse directed at us over the years because of politics. So much hate and lies and vitriol.

Sir David Amess death
A sign placed next to floral tributes left outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess was killed (Sam Russell/PA)

“I’ve had to hold my trembling teenage daughter as she’s weathered the foulest of online abuse as a result of malicious stories about her father.

“I watched her 18th birthday ruined by some nasty little piece of excrement who sent her a card threatening to kill her father if she didn’t acquiesce to their demands.

“I’ve seen my son’s eyes widen in fear, his hackles rise, as he’s witnessed his dad being abused in the street.

“That same dad was jostled and mobbed by anti-lockdown protesters only yesterday, and police officers rushed to help steer him away from them.”

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the targeting of ministers cannot be tolerated in a democratic society and the Government expects police to take the matter seriously.

In a statement posted online in relation to the incident involving Mr Gove, the Met said it was aware of a protest in Westminster that had been marching to a number of locations.

“During this protest, a group attempted to surround a Member of Parliament on Horseferry Road,” the statement said.

“Our officers were immediately on scene, where they safely escorted him to a nearby building.”

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