Woman, 21, arrested over stabbing of Labour MP

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The Independent Online

A Labour MP was recovering well from an operation on stab wounds this morning after being stabbed during his first constituency advice surgery since the general election.

Stephen Timms, the MP for East Ham and a vice-chairman of the Labour Party, is thought to have been knifed twice in the stomach while meeting a female constituent at Beckton Globe community hall at 3.20pm yesterday.

The woman reportedly became angry towards the end of her appointment. It is unknown why the woman wanted to see Mr Timms, 54, or if she had any particular complaint. A 21-year-old suspect was arrested at the scene.

A spokeswoman for the Royal London Hospital said: "Stephen Timms had surgery yesterday evening at the Royal London Hospital to repair his stab wounds. The operation went well. He is comfortable and resting on a ward. It is anticipated that he will be discharged from hospital in the next few days to recuperate at home."

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said: "Police were called at 3.20pm following reports of a man in his 50s stabbed at Kingsford Way, East London. Police and ambulance attended. He has been taken to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. A 21-year-old woman was arrested at the scene and is currently in custody at an East London police station."

Mr Timms served in Gordon Brown's Cabinet as Minister for Digital Britain and has been the MP for East Ham since 1994. Last week, he was returned to Parliament with an increased majority of 27, 826, which is thought to be the largest of any MP. He holds a surgery at the centre in Beckton on the second Friday of every month.

Mr Timms has regularly spoken out against knife crime in his constituency, particularly among young people. In 2006, he addressed an event to mark the death of Charlotte Polius, 15, who was stabbed while walking in the street the previous year.

He supported Labour legislation which gave teachers the power to search pupils for weapons and raised to 18 the age at which a knife could be purchased legally. A spokesman for Labour confirmed that the party was aware of the incident and said Mr Timms had "received visitors and is in good spirits".

After the attack, the acting Labour leader Harriet Harman expressed her concern about the safety of MPs meeting constituents alone. She said: "One of the great strengths of the British political system is the everyday accessibility of MPs to their constituents, but we cannot have a situation where MPs are at risk. Parliament needs to consider how best to ensure MPs can carry out their responsibilities safely."

Several colleagues sent Mr Timms their best wishes on the microblogging site Twitter. Tom Harris, the Labour MP for Glasgow South, wrote: "Awful news, Stephen. Wishing you a very speedy recovery."

Greg Mulholland, the Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, said: "Awful news about Stephen Timms, thank goodness not life-threatening. Stephen is one of politics' thoroughly nice guys and a real gentleman." Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, said: "Appalled to hear Stephen Timms has been stabbed at his parliamentary surgery." Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: "Terrible news about Stephen Timms. Very much hope Stephen is alright and is back with us asap."

The incident has echoes of a similar attack on a Liberal Democrat MP, Nigel Jones, in 2000. He wounded when Robert Ashman, a 52-year-old with financial problems, attacked him with a samurai sword at a constituency surgery at the party's office in Cheltenham.

Andrew Pennington, an aide to Mr Jones, died after being stabbed six times. Ashman was later jailed for manslaughter and attempted murder.