View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
28 February 2024

MPs’ safety concerns shouldn’t obscure the right to protest

Threats against parliamentarians are an indictment of parts of the pro-Palestine movement – but the democratic process must be preserved.

By Freddie Hayward

Westminster is busy waiting for the general election. Politics is, therefore, in a holding pattern. Many Tory MPs have given up on winning their seats, which partly explains their rampant ill-discipline. Rishi Sunak can’t spend time winning over the public because he’s so busy balancing the various factions in his party. The small sparks of genuine disagreement between the Conservatives and Labour – over whether growth comes from tax cuts or investment, for instance – have drifted away.

Instead, the drama in parliament over the past few weeks has been driven by the war in Gaza and the pro-Palestinian protests. Labour faced a rebellion in the House of Commons on the issue of calling for a ceasefire before the Speaker intervened. Anderson’s comments were initially in response to the protests. Meanwhile, MPs I’ve spoken to say that threats against them from pro-Palestinian activists have shot up since 7 October.

Last week’s parliamentary chaos put MPs’ safety atop the agenda. Some members will tell you that the threats won’t stop until language in the Commons becomes more civil. This argument assumes bullies and trolls are inspired by what politicians say. Harriet Harman has suggested parliament return to Covid-style voting systems to allow threatened MPs to work from home. Given that neither of the main parties supported an immediate ceasefire before last week, and that there was broad consensus in parliament, there’s doubt over whether this explains the threats.

Other MPs, particularly Conservatives, argue they should not have to change their behaviour. It is their job to robustly scrutinise each other’s ideas, to speak freely without fear. They say it is the police’s responsibility to protect parliamentarians.

In that vein, the government has allocated £31m for more police patrols outside MPs’ offices as well as private security and training. The Speaker has welcomed the proposals.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary James Cleverly has questioned the pressure the pro-Palestinian protests are placing on the police. A recent report estimates the cost of policing the weekly demonstrations is £25m. “They have made a point and they made it very, very loudly and I’m not sure that these marches every couple of weeks add value to the argument,” Cleverly told the Times. “They’re not really saying anything new.”

Cleverly seems to be saying that he will happily stump up £31m to ensure MPs can do their job, but he is not willing to spend £25m to enable marchers to exercise their right to protest. Indeed, the government is considering increasing the notice period protesters have to give to the police. And here is the inconsistency: the government wants to have it both ways. Either the police are there to protect the democratic process, or not.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; receive it every morning by subscribing on Substack here.

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Topics in this article : ,
Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU