Keith Vaz: This attack will not change the way we conduct our business

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The Independent Online

The constituency surgery is a staple of the British political system because it is really the only opportunity that our constituents have to meet us face-to-face and discuss their problems.

We need to publicise these events and so everyone in the country knows exactly where their MP is on a Friday or Saturday morning. It is the same for us all no matter how high or low your profile is.

The problem, of course, is that there is absolutely no security and absolutely no screening.

It has to be that way as the constituents would not have it any other way. They expect us to be sitting alone because they do not want anyone else in the room when they are discussing their problems.

The way my surgery works is that I sit in a room and my secretary outside sends people in. I have no idea who is about to walk through the door. In 23 years as an MP I have met some very desperate people and sometimes they are very angry. Angry perhaps not at us personally, but at the system – some people can feel the world is against them. I have had people shouting and screaming at me.

It puts us in a very vulnerable position, but I really do not see how we could change it. People would not come to the surgeries if there was a policeman or someone else in the room. Similarly they would not be happy if we sat behind a plastic screen or researched them before they arrived.

I am a friend of Stephen's and was with him just a couple of days ago discussing his phenomenal majority. He is a gentle giant and would not hurt anyone. What happened to him is terrible and my best wishes go to him. But I am sure he will not take it personally when I say that what happened to him will not change the nature of the way we, as politicians, do our business.

Keith Vaz is the Labour MP for Leicester East