Leigh-on-Sea (United Kingdom) (AFP)
British lawmaker David Amess’ fatal stabbing was a terrorist incident, police said on Saturday as MPs called for increased security following the second murder of a British politician as he met voters in just over five years.
Veteran Conservative MP David Amess, 69, was speaking with voters at a church in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea in east London when he was stabbed to death on Friday.
Police said they arrested a 25-year-old suspect and were investigating “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.
Police said the investigation was in “the very early stages”, although several British media, citing sources, reported that the suspect is believed to be a British national of Somali descent.
British politicians were stunned by the very public attack, which recalled the murder of a pro-EU lawmaker before the Brexit referendum.
In June 2016, Labor MP Jo Cox was killed by a far-right extremist, prompting calls for action against what lawmakers have called a “rising tide” of public abuse and threats against women. elected.
Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater, who became an MP in the same constituency this year, said Amess’s death had left her “scared and frightened”.
“This is the risk we all take and so many MPs will be afraid of it,” she added.
Interior Minister Priti Patel on Friday ordered police across the country to review security arrangements for the 650 MPs.
House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle did not promise any “knee-jerk reaction” but told Sky News: “We will take further action if we need to.”
Labor MP Chris Bryant wrote in The Guardian that ‘sensible action’ was needed both in Parliament, which is usually heavily guarded, and in constituencies, where MPs often hold meetings in places such as church halls and main street offices.
“We don’t want to live in fortresses. But I don’t want to lose another colleague to a violent death, ”Bryant added.
– Growing threats –
Members of Parliament and their staff have already been attacked, although this is rare.
But their security was brought to the fore by Brexit, which stoked deep political divisions and led to often angry partisan rhetoric.
The Cox killer repeatedly shouted ‘Britain first’ before shooting and stabbing the 41-year-old MP outside her constituency meeting near Leeds in northern England.
A specialized police unit created to investigate threats against MPs said 678 crimes against lawmakers were reported between 2016 and 2020.
Most (582) involved malicious communications, although other crimes included harassment (46), terrorism (nine), threats (seven), and common assault (three).
Separate figures indicate a sharp increase in reports since 2018, including three death threats.
Former MP Anna Soubry, who left the Conservative Party over her opposition to Brexit, said she was shot in a bullying campaign that also targeted her family.
“I’m scared,” she said at the time.
Amess himself has written about public harassment and online abuse in his book “Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster”, published last year.
“These growing attacks have instead spoiled the great British tradition of people meeting openly with their elected politicians,” he said.
MPs had to install security cameras and only meet voters by appointment, he added.
Members of Parliament staff have also spoken of bearing the brunt of the abuse.
“I would come in and all I would do is go to Facebook and report death threats and delete them,” said Jade Botterill, who worked for Labor MP Yvette Cooper from 2013 to 2019 .
Brexit was a turning point and staff working in constituency offices while an MP was in parliament were often at the forefront of daily public anger, she added.
© 2021 AFP