The Speaker of the House of Commons has called for a review into MPs’ security following the death of Sir David Amess.
Paying tribute to the Tory MP for Southend West as a “lovely man” who “built a reputation for kindness and generosity”, Sir Lindsay Hoyle said discussions would take place on measures to better protect parliamentarians.
“I am shocked and deeply distressed by the killing of Sir David Amess,” he said.
“David was a lovely man, devoted to his family, to Parliament and his Southend West constituency. He was well-liked by Members and the staff alike, and during his almost four decades here, built a reputation for kindness and generosity.
“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country.
“In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”
Since the turn of the century, attacks have been carried out against MPs with alarming regularity, raising concerns about their safety, particularly when meeting constituents one-to-one.
Kim Leadbeater MP for Batley and Spen, sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, told Sky News she was “totally shocked” by what happened. “To think that something so horrible could happen again to another MP to another family. I’m scared and frightened and a real rollercoaster of emotions to be honest.”
“I find myself now working as a politician and trying to help people and it is really important that we get good people in public life but this is the risk we are all taking. So many MPs today will be scared by this. My partner came home and said “I don’t want you to do it anymore because the next time the phone goes it could be a different conversation.”
“At the heart of it are David’s families and friends and I know for them now their lives will never be the same again. They will think about this every single day for the rest of their lives.”
She added: “It is unbelievable that this can happen. I still can’t believe that this has happened. it feels very raw for me.”
She added: “Safety is always on my mind.”
On Friday night, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith cautioned against changing MPs’ surgeries, saying Sir David would want constituents to continue to have “full access”.
“We must be available,” he said. “It is the most critical bit of what makes the British parliamentary system one of the most accessible in the world and that is because we want it that way. We don’t want to be cowed or frightened into doing something different.”
Former Conservative party chairman Sir Eric Pickles admitted that weekly surgeries, often held on Fridays, did attract “obsessives”.
He added: “It’s a part of the job, something you sign up to. When you’re dealing with people who are very emotional, who feel like the system has let them down, often they’re looking for someone to blame. But if we close up shop, and disappear behind a security bubble, then it’s democracy itself that’ll be a lesser thing.”
Another MP, who did not wish to be named, suggested politicians may need police escorts from now on.
“We are all exposed, and we all hold surgeries and everyone knows who we are and where we live. There is a serious problem,” the MP said.
“The wonderful thing about MPs is that they are accessible to the public, but there is going to have to be a serious review on MPs security and some proper action.
“I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if we need police officers there or security guards.”
Andrew Pennington murder
In 2000, Nigel Jones, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, witnessed his assistant Andrew Pennington killed with a Japanese sword after Robert Ashman entered Jones’s constituency office wielding the “katana” blade.
Lord Jones, now a peer, needed 57 stitches to close wounds to his hand from the assault. Pennington, a local councillor, was posthumously awarded the George Medal for his attempts to protect Jones. Ashman was subsequently found guilty of attempted murder and admitted to Pennington’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in 2003.
Stephen Timms stabbing
In 2010, Stephen Timms, the Labour MP for East Ham, was stabbed during his constituency surgery by Roshonara Choudhry, a British former student and an Islamic extremist, in an attempt to kill him.
She was found guilty of attempted murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years.
Choudhry, who stated that she had been influenced by online sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was the first Al-Qaeda sympathiser to attempt an assassination in Britain.
Timms suffered “potentially life-threatening” lacerations to the left lobe of his liver and a perforation to his stomach.
A senior police officer said he was “extremely fortunate not to have been killed.”
He underwent emergency surgery at the Royal London Hospital and was discharged five days later.
Jo Cox murder
In 2016, Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen died after being shot and stabbed multiple times in Birstall, West Yorkshire.
Thomas Alexander Mair, a 53-year-old gardener, was found guilty of her murder and other offences connected to the killing.
The judge concluded that Mair wanted to advance white supremacism and exclusive nationalism most associated with Nazism and its modern forms.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order.
Rosie Cooper targeted
In 2019, 23-year-old Jack Renshaw was jailed for life for planning to murder Rosie Cooper, the Labour MP for West Lancashire.
The judge at the Old Bailey said the neo-Nazi had wanted to “replicate” the murder of Miss Cox.
Around the same time, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told a Commons committee threats to MPs were at “unprecedented levels”, with the number of crimes reported more than doubling in 2018 – from 151 to 342.
It came after a parliamentary report found threats of murder, rape and other violence against MPs had become “commonplace” and had forced many to change their behaviour and take increased security measures when they deal with the public.
Last night, Labour MP Yvette Cooper’s former office manager Jade Botterill tweeted that she had left her role because of the hundreds of death threats the office had received. “It was all just too much,” she said.
Two years ago, a BBC investigation found that more than 60 per cent of MPs surveyed had been in contact with police over threats they had received in the previous six months.
SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron said she had put in place extra security so her children could play safely in her garden.
Conservative Scott Mann said someone threatened to nail bomb his office.
Of the 172 who responded to the BBC’s poll, 139 said either they or their staff had faced abuse in the past year.