London MPs have revealed the frequency and seriousness of threats made against them by members of the public following Finchley & Golders Green MP Mike Freer deciding not to defend his seat due to security concerns, and City Hall moving the next People’s Question Time online because of worries about rowdy protestors.
A survey by Politics London found that almost all of the 17 who replied were fearful for their safety and had been victims of stalking or threats, and every one said they now take additional safety measures. Nine of them said they have considered standing down because of the threats they receive.
For security reasons, Apsana Begum, a Muslim who represents Poplar & Limehouse and is the country’s first and so far only hijab-wearing MP, did not give even Politics London reporter Helen Drew the location for their interview until just over an hour before it took place.
Begum described receiving Islamophobic threats to kill her, of sexual violence and kidnap, and to “rip my hijab off in public”, saying this “goes on and on”, affecting “every aspect of my life” and entailing continual review of her security arrangements.
Freer had cited threats made against him because of his pro-Israel views about the Middle East when announcing he will be standing down. He took to wearing a stab vest and carrying a panic alarm after it emerged in 2022 that the Islamist who murdered Southend West MP Sir David Amess in October 2021 had previously carried out a reconnaissance at a location where he’d been due to meet constituents.
The Greater London Authority recently decided to move online the People’s Question Time event originally planned to take place in Richmond later this month after the previous one was repeatedly disrupted by aggressive protesters against last August’s expansion of the capital’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone to the whole of the city by Sadiq Khan.
That event, held in November, had itself been relocated to City Hall from a venue in Westminster because of security concerns. The Mayor and London Assembly members answered questions from behind a protective screen. A man was fined by police for his disorderly and threatening behaviour.
MPs told Politics London that “death threats and similar arrive daily” and in one case meant they were “too worried to go out and about in my constituency”. Security requirements “can sometimes effect the closeness we wish to establish with out constituents,” one said. Other comments included: “If they wanted to intimidate me then yes, they achieved this.”
Heightened anxiety about MPs or their staff being attacked have led to a reluctance to disclose what security measures are being taken, though they are known to have included strengthened windows at constituency offices and bollards installed outside them to prevent vehicles being driven into the buildings.
Elliot Colborn, who represents Carshalton & Wallington, recounted specific threats to “come to your office, your house, your next surgery, wherever it might be, and we will kill you there” and added that other MPs have had similar experiences. He acknowledged that they have made him consider giving up being an MP, largely because of the strain it has put on family members.
Watch Politics in London 11/02/2024 in full here. Dave Hill is the editor and publisher of OnLondon.co.uk. Support the site and its writers for £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Threads: DaveHillOnLondon. X/Twitter: OnLondon and Dave Hill. Photo from Conservative Party.