Sunday shows: Nandy, Streeting, Brown on killing of David Amess and MP safety

Trevor Phillips on Sunday

MPs paid tribute to Conservative MP David Amess, who was killed on Friday. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy discussed the impact on MPs and called on politicians to “tone down the rhetoric”.

  • On safety measures for MPs having an impact on the link between them and the constituency: “My bigger fear is that this just keeps happening, and we keep having this debate, and then nothing very much changes. The Speaker[s] of the House of Commons… have made big efforts to try to step up support and security for MPs, but the truth is this isn’t felt equally. There are some MPs who are far more at risk, who face far more abuse. There is an online report by Amnesty International a few years ago, for example, that found that Diane Abbott received half of all the online abuse levelled at MPs. So there are additional measures that are needed – but not just about security, but just about support for people to be able to go about their daily lives, proper advice.”
  • Asked what should be done to make her feel safe: “I’m not sure that we can ever get to that point, to be honest… MPs are well known in our constituencies, people tend to know where we live… I’m not sure that we can ever eliminate the risk. But I think there are other things that could be done to reduce the risk.”
  • She added: “The suggestion from the Speaker about ensuring that anyone who wants or needs security at surgeries is a good idea.”
  • On rhetoric in politics: “We really do, all of us in parliament, need to tone down the rhetoric towards one another, especially when that strays into rhetoric that is dehumanising, that treats people not as other fellow human beings, or somehow questions people’s motives.”
  • Asked whether anonymity should be removed from social media: “The difficulty with removing anonymity altogether is that you’ve got pro-democracy protestors and campaigners, you’ve got whistleblowers, people around the world sometimes have to use some level of anonymity in order to make themselves heard.”
  • On Priti Patel’s comments on online abuse and the online harms bill: “It is a bit rich for the Home Secretary to say that she takes that very seriously when the government has been dragging their feet on their legislation for years.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would favour MPs being afforded close security including bodyguards. He also called on world leaders to distribute a surplus of 240 million unused Covid vaccines to developing countries.

  • On the impact on the killing: “This is an attack on our democracy, so the answer cannot be less democracy. This looks as if it is a terrorist incident… The answer when you come across a terrorist incident is we don’t blink, we don’t shirk, we don’t flinch, we don’t show weakness.”
  • Asked whether he would favour MPs having bodyguards: “Yes, because if there is a risk to anybody who is a member of the general public or an MP, and the risk is apparent to the police authorities, they will do everything in their power to protect that person.”
  • On MPs’ constituency surgeries: “We must say to MPs, of course be careful where you hold your constituency surgeries – in a place that is protected – but at the same time if you need police protection, that is going to be available.”
  • He added: “It need not be obtrusive, it need not be so obvious, but I think the protection has got to be made available now to MPs who feel there is a risk to what they are doing. And I think that will be introduced in the next few days.”
  • On Covid vaccinations and developing countries: “There are 240 million vaccines that are lying in Europe and America that are unused, not likely to be used for months, many of them may got to waste – and that would be criminal – which could immediately be airlifted out to those countries where the level of vaccination is so low that not even the doctors and nurses are protected.”
  • He added: “This is a lack of coordination. If President Biden, Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen at the EU, Justin Trudeau, if they came together, they would find that they had these unused vaccines. That they are not going to use them, even after all the boosters they are excess vaccines… and they should get them out as quickly as possible.”

Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford and a shadow cabinet member, talked about David Amess and civility in politics.

  • On Amess: “David was one of those great characters in parliament. Everyone knew him because you couldn’t not know him. He was renowned for the causes he took up, a terrific sense of humour and just the most outstanding champion for his constituency… He was loved right across the political spectrum.”
  • On safety measures for MPs: “I don’t know what the answer is. The thing about the accessibility of politicians in Britain… None of us really want to change that. We don’t want to take measures that undermine that. But we’re having difficult conversations with our own families. This is not just about us, it’s about the safety of our staff, the people who work for us. It’s about how our families feel when we go off to work.” He added: “It’s so raw and we don’t want to rush to snap judgments, but something’s got to change.”
  • On language in politics such as the use of ‘scum’: “The rough and tumble of politics, the argy bargy of debate, that’s part of it. I think there are times when intemperate language can go too far. I wish it wouldn’t take awful tragedies like this for us to remind ourselves and particularly to remind the public that we do quite like each other.”
  • He added: “When I look across the chamber to Conservative MPs, I don’t see a bunch of people who are evil. I see people who like me are motivated by a commitment to public service and wanting to make our country a better place. We just differ on how to do that.”

Priti Patel was asked what measures are being taken and considered to protect MPs’ safety.

  • On immediate safety measures being taken: “The Speaker has already put in a range of measures post-Friday, as we have on policing, but within that there are other options that are being considered, such as when you hold your surgeries, could you have officers or some kind of protection while you’re holding your surgery? Now, it’s not for me to determine the mechanism for that right now, but there are discussions underway right now looking at a whole spectrum, that’s only one example and there are others as well that are actively under consideration right now.”
  • She added: “MPs have already been contacted by their local police forces, so that’s 600 plus MPs, around: ‘What are they doing?’… Sharing information with the police so the police know where they are.  Checking their actual physical security.”
  • On the relationship between MPs and their constituents changing: “We, for example, do much more booking appointments in advance, surgery appointments. So there are practical things, but I come back to your fundamental premise: this should never, ever break that link between an elected representative and their democratic role, responsibility and duty to the people that have elected them to be their representative.”
  • On removing the right to anonymity on social media: “I want us to look at everything…  I’ve done a lot of work on these social media platforms. Mainly around encryption and areas of that nature. But we can’t carry on like this.”

The Andrew Marr Show

Lisa Nandy shared her reflections on David Amess, said she does not feel safe as an MP and set out what Labour would do to address online abuse.

  • Reflecting on David Amess and his death: “I first met David when I was first elected to parliament, he was one of the first MPs I met. It was through some work on an APPG on children in care… He was so involved in so many things that were all about trying to improve the lives of who often didn’t have a voice, and he was willing to work with whoever it took in the political system to change that.”
  • “Although this is heartbreaking and it does make you very anxious, none of us are going to stop doing our jobs as a consequence.”
  • Asked whether she feels safe as an MP: “No, not really if I’m honest. I feel quite fortunate to have a lot of constituents who are concerned about my safety, it’s that sort of place, people look after each other.”
  • “The response from the police in many cases has been very good, but I think the response generally has not been. It’s been far too patchy.”
  • On online abuse: “No action has ever been taken about people who have threatened to harm me online, despite the fact there has been reams of it over the last decade. I think that has got to change.”
  • On responding to it: “We’re a bit cautious about simply ending anonymity on social media. I work with a lot of people… for whom anonymity on social media can be life-saving. So the trick is to get the right balance.”
  • She reiterated Labour’s support for the policy of introducing criminal penalties for senior tech executives who repeatedly breach a new legal duty of care.
  • On bringing back Covid measures: “We’ll obviously look at that… As always, what we’d like to see is proper action on the things that we know are already a problem.” She cited building ventilation, especially in schools.

Priti Patel paid tribute to the “infectious personality and energy” of Amess. Asked what should change about how MPs conduct constituency surgeries, she suggested “moving from publicising appointments to pre-booking appointments, making sure that appointments are checked thoroughly, that the backgrounds on individuals are checked”, adding: “If I may say, a lot of those measures are already in place right now.”

On whether MPs should be offered police protection at surgeries, she replied: “There are protective measures available to MPs.” She highlighted the “panoply” of safety measures available beyond bodyguards for MPs.

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