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Bodyguards provided for three female MPs as concerns over politicians’ safety escalate

Security upgraded for three women as MPs said to be ‘petrified’ at abuse they are facing

Tara Cobham
Sunday 25 February 2024 15:18 GMT
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'I will do anything to protect ANYBODY in this chamber': Lindsay Hoyle hits back

Three female MPs have been provided with taxpayer-funded bodyguards and cars as concerns over politicians’ safety continue to escalate.

The women – who have not been named but include both Conservative and Labour members of parliament – have had their security upgraded as MPs are said to be “petrified” at the abuse they are facing.

In an overhaul of the safety measures in place to protect MPs, security minister Tom Tugendhat has been working with the Home Office, the police and the parliamentary authorities, as well as the Royal and VIP Executive Committee (Ravec), an organisation responsible for the security of senior politicians and the royal family.

The new measures, which have been introduced following a risk assessment and can be initiated in response to a referral from either the police or the parliamentary authorities, have come as the threat level faced by British politicians has shot up in recent weeks.

A senior security source told The Sunday Times: “Many MPs are petrified by the abuse they are facing.”

The newspaper understands that the three female MPs have been given close protection provided by private companies, as well as chauffeur-driven cars, which are usually only available to senior members of the cabinet and the leader of the opposition.

“We’ve taken a front-footed approach to coordinating action against the people or suspects that intelligence suggests most threaten MPs,” said a senior Whitehall source.

The security of other MPs deemed to be at risk is also under review, while, for those not needing the highest level of protection, thousands of security measures have been put in place both in London and at hundreds of constituency offices and homes.

Private security operatives have been employed at thousands of members’ surgeries and hundreds of events, alongside a police presence if required. MPs also have access to security advice, including via advisers based throughout the UK.

Ravec’s membership and decisions are mostly opaque, although insiders say it has a budget of hundreds of millions of pounds.

It comes after the Palestine Solidarity Campaign defended the right to lobby MPs “in large numbers”, amid reports that the group wanted so many protesters to turn up that parliament would “have to lock the doors”.

The group said the issue of MPs’ security was “serious” but should not be used to “shield MPs from democratic accountability”.

The organisation’s director, Ben Jamal, said thousands of people were “shamefully” denied entry into parliament on Wednesday as they attempted to lobby MPs to vote in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza in what he described as one of the largest physical lobbies of parliament in history.

The Times reported that Mr Jamal had told a crowd of demonstrators in the build-up to the protest on Wednesday: “We want so many of you to come that they will have to lock the doors of parliament itself.”

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons speaker, who has faced calls to resign after going against convention during the SNP’s opposition day debate on a ceasefire, said his motivation for widening Wednesday’s discussion was fuelled by concern about MPs’ security following the intimidation suffered by some parliamentarians.

Mr Jamal said his group “does not call” for protests outside MPs’ homes, and believes parliamentarians have a right “to have their privacy respected”.

The government’s political violence tsar has said police should have the powers to “disperse” protests around parliament, MPs’ offices and council chambers if they are deemed to be threatening.

John Woodcock, the government’s adviser on political violence and disruption, said on Friday that the “aggressive intimidation of MPs” by “mobs” was being mistaken for an “expression of democracy”.

The crossbench peer, who in December submitted a government-commissioned review of how actions by political groups can “cross into criminality and disruption to people’s lives”, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was calling for police forces to act “uniformly in stopping” protests outside MPs’ homes.

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