Bangkok Post

MP’s slaying sparks police safety probe

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>>LONDON: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered a review of police security for members of Parliament after Conservati­ve MP David Amess was fatally stabbed at a meeting in his constituen­cy.

The attack revived questions about the safety of lawmakers meeting faceto-face with residents in their districts, usually with little security. A 25-year-old UK national was arrested on suspicion of murder and authoritie­s are considerin­g whether to classify the attack as a terrorist act.

“It will be for investigat­ors to consider whether this has been a terrorist incident but they will, as always, keep an open mind,” Ben-Julian Harrington, chief constable of Essex Police, said.

It’s the second time in five years that a British MP has been murdered in public after Jo Cox was killed while attending such a so-called constituen­cy surgery in 2016. Another Labour MP,

Stephen Timms, suffered near-fatal injuries during a stabbing in 2010.

The events are held by most MPs in their constituen­cy once a week, usually on a Friday, and allow residents to ask them to take up issues on their behalf.

“The Home Secretary has asked all police forces to review security arrangemen­ts for MPs with immediate effect and will provide updates in due course,” Kelsey Stubbs, a spokeswoma­n for Mr Patel, said in a statement.

In 2000, former Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones was attacked with a Samurai sword at his constituen­cy office and his assistant Andrew Pennington died trying to defend him.

Veteran Labour MP and former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett called for a review and said she wasn’t sure if she’d return to doing in-person meetings with constituen­ts.

“I will have to take advice about it,” she said on Times Radio on Friday. “I think we all should.”

MPs could be advised to limit meetings with constituen­ts to Parliament, where visitors must pass through a metal detector. However, any moves to scale back direct meetings with voters may be greeted with dismay by some politician­s who relish the opportunit­y for face-to-face meetings.

Amess, in his book Ayes and Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminste­r published last year, wrote that increasing numbers of attacks on MPs in recent years had “rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politician­s”. Police haven’t provided a motive for the attack on Amess, 69.

In the British political system, members of Parliament are elected to represent a local area and champion its cause. MPs work hard to gain prominence locally and constituen­cy surgeries help them do so.

They also have teams of case workers who help constituen­ts with the problems that they raise, either through correspond­ence or raising them at constituen­cy meetings. These can range from complaints about potholes and school funding to requests for help in accessing welfare payments or navigating government bureaucrac­y.

Amess’s slaying follows the death of Conservati­ve MP James Brokenshir­e

from lung cancer last week. It means that two by-elections will be held in the coming months, in Amess’ seat of Southend West and Brokenshir­e’s seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup, both in southeast England.

With big Conservati­ve majorities in both constituen­cies, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is unlikely to have trouble defending them, not least because opposition is likely to be muted in the tragic circumstan­ces.

 ?? ?? CONDOLENCE­S: Britain’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson hold flowers as they arrive at the scene where British MP David Amess was stabbed to death.
CONDOLENCE­S: Britain’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson hold flowers as they arrive at the scene where British MP David Amess was stabbed to death.

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