Police could guard MP surgeries to keep them safe, Patel says
Priti Patel said protection for MPs while they are holding talks with constituents was one of the options being considered under a “whole spectrum” of measures to address safety concerns after the Southend West MP’s killing on Friday.
It came as Labour shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy admitted she did not feel safe when going about her Wigan constituency and said she was not sure the situation was “recoverable” for public servants, following the killing of two serving MPs in the past five years.
Conservative Sir David, 69, who had been an MP since 1983, was meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday afternoon when he was stabbed multiple times.
His death comes after the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016 as she was on her way to a constituency surgery.
A 25-year-old man, understood by the PA news agency to be Ali Harbi Ali, was arrested at the scene in Essex on suspicion of Sir David’s murder.
He has been detained under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and is in custody at a London police station.
The Home Office would not comment on reports that the suspect has the same details as a man previously referred to Prevent, the Government’s anti-terror scheme.
Ms Patel said discussions were under way with MPs about extra measures to keep them safe from similar attacks, with each representative contacted by their local police force since the attack in Essex.
She told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme the options being considered included that “when you hold your surgeries, could you have officers or some kind of protection while you’re holding your surgery?”
MPs could also be asked to share their whereabouts at all times with police, she said.
Asked if she would consider airport-style security, Ms Patel said: “That would be with the police and the House authorities. There are lots of things under consideration already.”
But Ms Patel was adamant that MPs should continue to be accessible to the public, despite the attacks and the barrage of threats.
The Home Secretary said: “This should never, ever break that link between an elected representative and their democratic role, responsibility and duty to the people who elected them.”
It came as police searches thought to be related to the investigation into Sir David’s murder continued on Sunday.
At least three officers wearing blue gloves were seen working inside a flat in a converted property in Kentish Town, north London, on Sunday morning.
A warrant of further detention, which allows detectives to hold the suspect until October 22, was granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.
Official sources told PA he is believed to be a British national with Somali heritage.
The Sunday Times said the suspect’s father, Harbi Ali Kullane, who the newspaper described as a former adviser to the prime minister of Somalia, had confirmed his British-born son had been arrested.
Speaking at his sister’s home in north London, Mr Kullane reportedly said: “I’m feeling very traumatised. It’s not something that I expected or even dreamt of.”
The Pope expressed condolences to the family of devout Catholic Sir David on Sunday, in comments made in St Peter’s Square in which he also said: “The path of violence, which is always a losing one, is a defeat for all.”
The House of Commons has announced that most of the timetable for Monday will be scrapped to allow MPs to share their memories of Sir David before a church memorial service in the early evening.
Since Sir David’s death, MPs have been sharing their day-to-day experiences of the threats they face.
Senior Labour MP Ms Nandy, asked whether she felt safe doing her job in her constituency, replied: “No, not really, if I’m honest.”
The representative for Wigan said she backed the idea of MPs being able to ask for police protection at public meetings.
“I’m not sure that we can ever eliminate the risk but there are other things that can be done to reduce the risk,” she told Phillips on Sky News.”I think the suggestion from the Speaker about ensuring that anyone who wants or needs security at surgeries is a good idea, not least because people often know, even if we don’t advertise them, that they are happening, so they can become a magnet for people who want to come and cause trouble.”
Andrew Rosindell, Tory MP for Romford, said MPs were “a little bit” frightened after Friday’s events and added he would recommend not publicising constituency surgeries online.
Speaking to PA in Leigh-on-Sea, he said: “The problem with social media is that it can be picked up by anybody, anywhere. A bad person can see it and can suddenly turn up and this is clearly what happened with David.”
Sir David had publicised his surgery at the church on Twitter several days before the attack.
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