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Spotlight on politicians' safety after fatal stabbing of British MP

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By Lauren Chadwick  & Euronews
Flowers are laid near the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, 16 Oct 2021, where UK MP Sir David Amess was fatally stabbed.
Flowers are laid near the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, 16 Oct 2021, where UK MP Sir David Amess was fatally stabbed.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali

The fatal stabbing of British MP Sir David Amess at a meeting with his constituents has put a spotlight on politicians' security.

It's a UK tradition to hold face-to-face meetings with constituents known as surgeries but many members of British parliament say there needs to be a review about how they can be safe while meeting constituents after the second murder of a British MP in five years.

Amess was stabbed at a routine surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday and died at the scene. In 2016, MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed while on her way to a surgery.

British home secretary Priti Patel said on Saturday that she had been in contact with the Speaker of the House of Commons and security services to "make sure that all measures are being put in place for the security of MPs, so that they can carry on with their duties as elected democratic members."

Speaker of the House Lindsay Hoyle wrote in the Guardian's Observer that he had reflected on politicians' surgeries hours after Sir David's death as he held his own, concluding that British politicians should continue to be able to meet openly with their constituents.

Hoyle said that while security measures had been improved after the murder of Jo Cox, they would review measures and work with police to identify further options.

Home Secretary Patel told Sky News on Sunday that members of parliament are subject to "some of the most appalling attacks I've seen online", adding that the government wanted "big changes" on social media.

"This isn't just about the House of Commons, this is about wider public discourse, and I would also go as far to say social media, anonymity on social media, where members of Parliament are subject to some of the most cruel comments, attacks and they are relentless," Patel said.

The events prompted some MPs to cancel surgeries while many maintained them with extra police at the scene. The murder prompted debate about what needs to happen going forward.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood tweeted that there was "huge anxiety" amongst MPs following Amess' murder and recommended that there should be a temporary pause in face-to-face meetings until the Home Secretary reviewed politicians' security.

"We can't simply say well that's the price of democracy. It can't be an occupational hazard of being an MP that you can face death when just going about your duties," Labour MP Harriet Harman told Channel 4.

She suggested that MPs needed to have a Speaker's conference to discuss how politicians can be safe. Harman said after Jo Cox's murder and an incident in one of her own surgeries, she began to see constituents "just by appointment."

Some MPs took a defiant tone over the weekend, posting about carrying on with their local surgeries as usual and insisting that meeting constituents must continue.

Alec Shelbrooke, the Conservative MP Elmet & Rothwell, held a surgery at a local supermarket on Saturday.

"Whilst we may have to add a few more precautions to how we do our job, we cannot let evens like this diminish the deep relationship between an MP and their constituents," Shelbrooke said.

Welsh MPs Craig Williams and Russell George posted photos of the police presence at their maintained surgery.

Williams thanked police "for their presence and reassurance."

"Listening to our constituents, helping with their needs and concerns, it’s the most important part of being an MP - nothing is going to stop that," tweeted Lucy Allan, a Conservative MP in Telford.