The brutal murder of Jo Cox in June this year shocked the nation. As has been revealed during the trial of Thomas Mair, the man found guilty of killing her, her death was brutal beyond belief. We also know that the reason she was targeted by Mair was because she was an MP. Thankfully, Mair has received a whole-life sentence and will never be released from prison. Justice has been done, but nothing is going to fully take away the pain from those close to her – especially her widower and her two young children.
Many people blame MPs for every ill in the world. They accuse them of having their snouts in the trough, not caring about their constituents, and only doing the job for selfish reasons. I know many MPs and have worked with many more, and although there are always rotten apples in every barrel, I can honestly say that the vast majority of MPs I have come across have been elected to Parliament for the right reasons. They are passionate people who want to make a difference. Whatever your political persuasion, there is no doubt that Jo Cox was one of those in the latter category – someone who wanted to become an MP because she cared about people and issues.
Many MPs – justifiably so – are concerned about their safety and security, and the safety and security of their staff. Many have received deaths threats. Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, revealed recently that he has received death threats, including an Isil image of his son being executed. Peter Bone has rightly reported these threats to the police.
Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, was elected in a by-election in 2012. She replaced Denis MacShane who was convicted of expenses fraud – one of those rotten apples who are thankfully not in elected office anymore. Since being elected, she has worked tirelessly for victims of child sexual exploitation both nationally and in her constituency. Politically, we disagree on many things, but I don’t doubt her passion and dedication. She was recently followed by ITV News for a week to find out what threats she receives on a daily basis.
Here’s an excerpt from the report by Paul Brand, political correspondent for ITV News:
Sarah tells me that sometimes her phone ‘blows up’ with so many aggressive messages that it virtually crashes. Her office manager tries to delete as many abusive emails as she can before Sarah gets to work and reads them. They regularly have to be passed on to police.
The report goes on to say:
Since Jo Cox’s death, Sarah now wears a panic alarm when she’s working alone. She’s also ordered them for her staff.
In fact, figures released to ITV News show 124 ‘lone worker devices’ have been ordered since the murder of Jo Cox in June, with 66 MPs being given extra security – that’s triple the number in the first half of this year.
But despite this, Sarah Champion says her safety is still not being taken seriously enough by the expenses watchdog IPSA.
“We only get any security when we…I was going to say ask for it…when we beg for it,” she says.
“It’s taken me nearly nine months and I still haven’t got the security that counter-terrorism is saying that I need in my home. I’ve got some, but it took us six months to get that.”
Ever since its inception, I have been a critic of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). It is a bureaucratic nightmare of an organisation that wastes vast sums of taxpayers’ money to effectively pay MPs their expenses. But although MPs shouldn’t have to wait inordinate amounts of time to get their expenses paid, the delays highlighted by Sarah Champion are shocking and dangerous. Of course IPSA defends itself by saying most claims are dealt with in days, but it is clear that IPSA does not take Sarah Champion’s security seriously. Although her and her staff have their panic buttons, if counter-terrorism officers say that she needs extra security in her home because of her work as an MP, she should get it without delay.
We live in a democracy and MPs are our elected representatives who play a crucial role legislating, scrutinising the Government, and standing up for their constituents’ interests. They should not have to fear for their lives every time they go about their work. Those who make death threats and other threats of violence, should feel the full weight of the law on their shoulders. Hopefully, this will act as a deterrent, as any law should, but in the meantime, Sarah Champion and others like her should receive any security and protection counter-terrorism officers think is necessary, and IPSA should settle claims without any delay or question.