Police to up presence at Westminster as MP abused
More police resources will be deployed around Westminster in the build-up to next week’s historic Brexit vote after one MP was branded a Nazi by an angry mob.
Conservative MP Anna Soubry was followed to the Palace of Westminster by protesters, prompting the Commons Speaker to demand police tackle the “aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour” towards politicians.
The abuse directed at Ms Soubry was branded “disgraceful” by a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May.
Police are to step up their operation around Parliament in the run up to next week’s Brexit deal vote after MPS were subjected to intimidation and harassment just yards from the House of Commons.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said Scotland Yard would be “enhancing the policing presence” after MP Anna Soubry was branded a Nazi by a mob during television interviews and then followed to the Palace of Westminster.
The Commons Speaker demanded police tackle the “aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour” towards politicians and journalists outside Parliament.
In his letter to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, John Bercow hit out at “toxic attacks” and called for officers to intervene when protesters overstepped the boundaries of peaceful protest.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday the Cabinet had agreed that the abuse Ms Soubry suffered was “disgraceful and unacceptable”.
Mr Taylor said that police officers on duty outside Parliament had been given clear directions “that if they witness criminal behaviour then there is an expectation that an arrest will be made”.
He added: “We’ve reviewed our policing plan on the back of incidents yesterday. You will see a visible policing presence [near Parliament]. We’ve had a policing presence there for a number of months with ongoing protest.
“We recognise the challenges there at the moment and certainly leading up to the vote next week we will be enhancing the policing presence and we will ensure that we have appropriate measures in place to attempt as far as possible to reassure people that they can go about their lives without fear of harassment or alarm.”
The force is assessing whether any crime was committed by the protesters who hurled abuse at Ms Soubry and campaigners Owen Jones and Femi Oluwole on Monday.
Protesters could be heard chanting “Soubry is a Nazi” as she appeared on BBC News from college green, across the road from Parliament.
Protesters also chanted slogans including “liar, liar” throughout a live interview she did with Sky News.
Earlier on Monday, political commentator Owen Jones shared a video on Twitter that showed him being accosted by a group outside Parliament, including men wearing Union flags.
They could be heard calling him a “traitor” and a “horrible little man” and accusing the Labour activist of writing “fake news”.
The incidents prompted a wave of criticism from politicians and commentators from across the political spectrum.
At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, ministers condemned the harassment suffered by Ms Soubry.
Theresa May told colleagues “this is not how debate should be conducted in our country”, said the PM’S official spokesman.
Meanwhile, Brexit secretary Steve Barclay faced criticism after linking the abuse faced by Ms soubry to the campaign for a second Brexit referendum.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today about the prospect of a new vote, he said: “That would be hugely damaging to democracy, to our politics.
“We saw in the appalling scenes outside Parliament in the way that my colleague Anna Soubry was disgracefully treated yesterday how divisive this process has been.”
Labour’s Chuka Umunna branded Mr Barclay’s comments as “disgraceful”, adding: “The notion we should be intimidated into not holding democratic votes is deplorable.”
PM suffers defeat in Commons as MPS vote to limit the powers of Treasury under nodeal Brexit
Theresa May suffered a major backbench rebellion as MPS signalled their opposition to a no-deal Brexit by defeating the Government in the Commons last night.
Twenty Conservatives supported an amendment tabled by Labour former minister Yvette Cooper to the Budget-enacting Finance (No. 3) Bill, according to the division list.
Her proposal is aimed at restricting the UK Government’s freedom to use the Bill to make tax changes linked to a no-deal Brexit without the “explicit consent” of Parliament.
Instead, the powers in the Bill could only come into force if the Commons has approved a Brexit deal, if the Government seeks to extend Article 50 or the Commons has approved
leaving the EU without a deal.
It was supported by 303 votes to 296 – a majority of seven – despite three Labour MPS rebelling to oppose it.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned and applauded Ms Cooper, also giving a thumbs up.
In a statement outside the Commons, he said the vote in support of the amendment was “an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit”.
Tory rebels included former ministers Sir Michael Fallon, Anna Soubry and George Freeman.
During debate on the Bill, Conservative former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan urged MPS to rule out the “most damaging option” that could happen on 29 March.
She said: “No-deal is a terrible deal and it would be a gross dereliction of the responsibility of members of this House to inflict a no-deal situation on our constituents.”
Conservative former minister Sir Oliver Letwin said he was supporting the amendment because he wanted to show the Government that MPS will not allow a no-deal Brexit.
He said passing the amendment would show there was a majority against that outcome and there would continue to be a majority against it, saying they would “bring forward similar amendments” to frustrate other legislation in this area.
Sir Oliver said: “I want to make it abundantly clear to my honourable friends who are voting against the Prime Minister’s deal, which I shall be supporting, that the majority in this House will sustain itself and we will not allow a no-deal exit to occur on the 29th of March.”
Adding that voting against the Government was “very much against my will”, Sir Oliver said: “I will continue to do so right up to the end of March, in the hope that we can put pay to this disastrous proposal.” Ms Cooper also told the Commons: “This is too serious for us to play a massive game of Brexit chicken. The country cannot afford to wait to see who blinks first.”
She advised ministers to secure approval for a Brexit deal or get “explicit” agreement for no-deal before 29 March, adding “or if that fails, commit to seeking an extension to Article 50 so there is time to sort things out”.
0 Clockwise from above: Police out in strength outside parliament yesterday; rival protesters face off; a pro-brexit campaign bus passes police at Westminster; MP Anna Soubry arrives at the Commons the day after suffering verbal abuse