Sir David Amess MP’s shock murder puts security in the spotlight for Harrogate district MPs
Shocked MPs across our district and county may have paid tribute to Sir David Amess after the Conservative MP’s murder last week but there is also concern over threats to elected politicians closer to home.
Sir David's death has sparked a debate on the safety of MPs in public life, and whether they should be provided with police protection during their regular surgeries, with some calling for metal detectors or stab vests for MPs when holding surgeries in their constituencies
The House of Commons speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has said "we must learn" from the "hideous killing" of Sir David Amess.
He said he would be conducting a review of safety measures and urged MPs to take up the security measures that were already available.
North Yorkshire Police has said it has already contacted Harrogate district MPs Andrew Jones and Julian Smith about their personal security following the tragic events in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.
Writing in his regular column for the Harrogate Advertiser, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones admitted he had experienced threats, too.
Mr Jones said:
"I knew David well. He was a charming, gentle, family man and, like the overwhelming majority of MPs, took his role seriously.
“He was a recognisable face in his constituency which he had represented since 1983.
So even when not ‘on duty’ - while shopping, enjoying leisure time with his family, going to church - people would recognise him and stop him for a word or two
“Since Sir David was killed I have had some kind messages from complete strangers just to say how much they deplore what happened.
“On the flipside, some online have already reverted to personal insults variously calling me a ‘parasite’ or ‘spineless’.
“My team have called the police because of threatening behaviour.
“On one occasion I received nine letters from the same person in one day saying that “what was done to Jo Cox will be done to you”.
Mr Jones continued:
“On another occasion someone emailed late at night to tell me that they knew where I lived and then emailed a few hours later to say ‘I hope you’ve got good security there’.
“There is much more but it is all mild compared to what some of my female and ethnic minority colleagues face. It is appalling what they have to endure, genuinely shocking.
“The reason for sharing these experiences is to demonstrate the need to learn how to disagree without demonising one another.
“And that doesn’t matter whether it is MPs talking about other MPs or members of the public talking about other members of the public.”
North Yorkshire Police said it had approached Harrogate district MPs Andrew Jones and Julian Smith about their security after the fatal stabbing of MP Sir David Amess.
A statement from North Yorkshire Police said: “Members of Parliament from North Yorkshire and the City of York have been contacted as part of Operation Bridger, which provides tactical options for protective physical security in their constituencies.
“This is managed by the parliamentary liaison and investigation team that was formed in 2016 following the murder of Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen.
“In order to help protect themselves, their family and staff members, and their constituents while attending surgeries, we are advising our MPs to report any security concerns to us without delay.
“North Yorkshire Police will continue to review the security advice on a regular basis, based on an assessment of changing threats and risk.”
Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith has also paid tribute this week to Sir David after the fatal stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea, praising him for his “humanity”.
Mr Smith said: “As a youngster I remember David Amess for his oratory, looks and dynamic hair.
“When I became Chief Whip I saw his humanity - the deep level of commitment he had to his colleagues when they were ill or in distress was formidable.
“For him to be killed in this way is devastating.”
While Prime Minister Boris Johnson was giving his blessing to Sir David’s wish to grant Southend city status and Home Secretary Priti Patel weighed up the pros and cons of giving all MPs police protection, Alec Shebrooke, Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell, tweeted he would not break the close link between himself and his constituents.
After insisting on holding his regular surgery in a supermarket last Saturday, Mr Shelbrooke said: “We cannot let events like this diminish the deep relationship between an MP and their constituents.
“I want my constituents, regardless of whether they voted for me or not, to be able to approach me in the street, in the pub, at the supermarket or at one of my surgeries.”